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Alabama

The Root and the New York Times (NYT) are reporting that the Talladega College band’s trip to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration was mostly funded by fans of Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” The HBCU’s president, Billy Hawkins, Ph.D., appeared on the show and made a statement on how the band was having trouble raising the $75,000 needed in order to make the trip to Washington, D.C. A GoFundMe page was mentioned on O’Reilly’s show. At the time, the page had only raised about $50,000. But after the mention on Fox, the amount raised jumped to more than $333,000. According to the NYT, members of O’Reilly’s audience, which is considered White and conservative, applauded the students’ “courage and independence.”

California

A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project has partnered with McKinney and Associates to highlight women’s experiences with mass incarceration through a new multimedia storytelling platform known as JustUS Voices Storytelling for Change. The collaboration is being billed as “a special opportunity for formerly incarcerated women to be heard in a compelling space,” according to Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life. She added, “The dialogue on mass incarceration focuses primarily on the experiences of men. We refuse to ignore or diminish the realities mass incarceration has visited upon our children and families. JustUS Voices—through video, interviews, guided storytelling, social media and live public events—will broaden the conversation to include JustUS Women.” For info or to contribute, go to www.anewwayoflife.org.

District of Columbia

Richard Spencer, the self-proclaimed White nationalist and leader of the “alt-right” movement (a phrase he coined), was punched in the face at a Trump inauguration protest last Friday after denying that he was a Nazi, reports the Root. Spencer was speaking in front of a group of people who were asking him questions such as, “Are you a neo-Nazi?” to which he responded “no.” He was then asked if he liked Black people, and he said, “Why not? Sure.” Someone else asked, “Would you marry a Black woman?” Spencer did not answer that question. He then told the group that neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan actually hate him, and it is at that point that a man walked up from the crowd and punched Spencer in the face. The assault was featured on video and shows Spencer was punched by a White person.

Florida

She’s only 13, and an aspiring astronaut, but this Black teen has already affected hundreds of young girls’ lives. Jacksonville teen Taylor Richardson raised more than $14,000 to send her peers to see the movie “Hidden Figures,” which has already won Golden Globes awards and is expected to bring home Oscars as well. According to the entertainment content company Mashable, after having the opportunity to attend a “Hidden Figures” event at the White House in December and view a special screening of the film, Richardson decided to raise money to send other young girls to see it. She created a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising funds to send 100 girls to see “Hidden Figures,” in addition to giving them each a copy of the book and movie snacks, of course. Richardson explained on her GoFundMe page, “I left D.C. feeling incredibly inspired to pay it forward for some girls in my community to have a special viewing as well. It’s important that girls not only look at the stars but take the steps to reach for them.”


A suspect in a police officer’s murder directed expletive-laced outbursts at a judge during an initial hearing last Thursday on charges that he also killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend. He declared that many of the accusations against him were “made up” and complained that he was roughed up even though he didn’t resist arrest following an intense manhunt, according to the Associated Press. Markeith Loyd appeared with his eye bandaged and wearing a bulletproof vest, and flanked by two police officers in an Orlando courtroom on charges including first-degree murder and unlawful killing of an unborn child in the Dec. 13 death of Sade Dixon. “They done took my eye, broke my nose, broke my jaw,” Loyd complained, swearing as he described crawling out to the road to be arrested. “I didn’t resist.” Loyd, 41, said he planned to represent himself, and stridently disputed the charges. He also is accused of fatally shooting Orlando Lt. Debra Clayton outside a Walmart while he was a fugitive from justice. He was arrested late Jan. 17 following a nine-day manhunt. Police said he resisted arrest and that force was used to bring him in. When the judge finally told officers to remove him from the courtroom, Loyd turned to the judge and said “f- you!”

Louisiana

The Dillard University Department of Athletics announced its ninth annual Billy Ray Hobley Scholarship Gala will take place on Friday, Feb. 17, in the atrium of the Dillard Professional Schools and Sciences Building. Each year, Dillard Athletics in conjunction with the ASK Billy Ray Hobley Foundation recognizes individuals that have demonstrated a commitment to service to their community and representing the ideals Billy Ray Hobley lived by. Each year the event raises thousands of dollars for scholarships and serves as the kick off for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Bleu Devil Classic Weekend, featuring men’s and women’s basketball matchups against Dillard’s longtime crosstown rival, Xavier University.

“The Gala is an important fundraiser for student scholarships as well as a great celebration of the legacy of one of our most notable former athletes,” said Athletic Director Kiki Baker Barnes. “We are so proud to shine a light on these outstanding individuals who contribute so much to society and to reward some exceptional students who have shown exactly what a student-athlete should be.”

Nevada

For the third year in a row, the annual Stellar (gospel music) Awards will be held in Las Vegas at the Orleans Hotel, this year on March 25 with the broadcast airing on April 9 on TV One. The nominations are in, and Tamela Mann and Travis Greene lead with nine nominations each, followed by Hezekiah Walker with seven and Kirk Franklin with six. Erica Campbell and Anthony Brown will serve as hosts. The awards show is open to the public. The weekend of events also include a radio awards event, as well as various breakfasts and luncheons honoring gospel artists.

New York

A Black Fire Department of New York rookie expecting a warm welcome at his new firehouse was instead sexually hazed and humiliated by a band of naked firefighters, according to a shocking federal discrimination lawsuit, claims the New York Post. It was the beginning of a series of horrific incidents meant to make the rookie’s life so miserable he would quit, the suit alleges. The case is now being probed by the U.S. Department of Justice, a source close to the matter has said. On May 4, 2015, the day before his graduation from the Fire Academy, probationary firefighter Gordon Springs, 27, and three fellow probies went to their new firehouse, Ladder Co. 35/Engine Co. 40 near Lincoln Center, known as The Cavemen. Longstanding FDNY custom dictates that probies, bearing desserts, visit their new units for a welcome tour. Springs brought a cake. “This was about visiting the firehouse, meeting the firefighters and meeting the new family,” the source said. As the probies entered the Amsterdam Avenue firehouse, firefighter Peter Grillo whispered to Springs, “Our house is really gay,” according to the lawsuit. Springs claims the probies were led to the gym, where four naked smoke-eaters—two identified in the complaint as Charles Swift and Pedro Aristy—were waiting. Aristy ordered Springs to lie down on a workout bench, the suit says. The rookie, shaken, tried to leave, but the door was “forcibly held shut” by firefighters. Springs did as he was told. Aristy stood over the prone probie and “moved his penis and testicles close” to Spring’s face, then plopped them onto his forehead, according to court papers. The legal papers do not say if the other probies—two White, one Black—were sexually assaulted. In the months that followed, Springs would be “singled out time and time again,” because he was African American, the suit claims. The diatribe continued, Springs alleges, with Springs too “scared” to call the police, his lawyer said. In November, the federal EEOC determined there was “reasonable cause” to believe Springs was the victim of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Tennessee

A Memphis high school student who accused her parents of cutting her off because of her Black boyfriend raised more than $34,000 through a GoFundMe page meant to support her college tuition. According to the Commercial Appeal, Allie Dowdle, a White senior at the Hutchinson School, a private school, created a GoFundMe page to plead with the public to help her receive an education. Dowdle explained that her troubles began, when she told her parents, Bill and Demetra Dowdle, that she was dating Michael Swift, who is Black. Swift, the Commercial Appeal notes, is a former soccer standout at the Memphis University School who currently plays midfield and forward as a freshman at Clemson University. His father is former NFL player Michael Swift, who has played with the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers. Dowdle said that she continued to see Swift discreetly despite her parents’ attitude, while fighting “to make my parents see Michael as a human being instead of just someone who is African American.” She said that when she and Michael approached her parents again, they cut her off. Not only did they deny her access to money for college, they also took away her cell phone, her car and her own personal savings. She’s 18 now and will now be able to access the funds without interference from her parents.

Texas

On Jan. 13, footage was released of former NFL star Ricky Williams being frisked by police while he was taking a walk in Tyler Texas. According to the Root, Williams was in Texas to attend the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award ceremony, when police stopped him and asked him to stand in front of a police car while they searched him for weapons. The police claimed that they had received calls about a suspicious man hopping fences and loitering. Williams denied hopping any fences, and an officer responded, “Here’s the thing. I know more than what you think I know. I know that you were in the back of somebody’s yard back there. Is there a reason you were in somebody’s yard?” Williams continued to deny the accusations, saying that he had not been in anyone’s yard. He was eventually allowed to leave and was not charged. After the incident, Tyler police department spokesperson Don Martin defended the officers to the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Williams, meanwhile, recounted the experience to Austin radio station KLBJ 93.7 on Jan. 18: “They had me put my hands behind my back. They didn’t cuff me. They had me take everything out of my pockets and they started questioning me. I started to get upset. They told me to calm down. I said, ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be a Black man, and it’s not the first time.’”

Martin reached out to Williams. “We visited about the incident, and we came to the positive conclusion that he’s very welcome in Tyler, Texas,” Martin said. “And I hope I can spend some time with him, when he does return. I even invited him to stay with my family when he’s here; we have a guest room he’s welcome to.”

National

A National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) member has become the first woman to be named to the Hall of Fame for Baseball Writers. Claire Smith has been writing for 30 years for papers such as the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant and more. She’s also worked for ESPN as a news editor, with Major League Baseball as her beat. Smith is also an author and wrote “Don Baylor – Nothing But the Truth: A Baseball Life.” In 1984, she was physically removed by players from the San Diego Padres clubhouse after a game. While the situation was eventually resolved, thanks to then-Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, it left scars for a number of years. Former MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who once fought to keep women sports writers out of major league clubhouses, later called Smith “the best baseball writer in America.”

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.