California

After U.C. Berkeley officials cancelled a scheduled appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos last week amid on-campus and online protests, President Donald Trump took to his Twitter account to threaten the university with the loss of federal funding for not allowing free speech, but some question whether that is something really within his power to do? The short answer is no, reports The Root. “If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view—no federal funds?” the president tweeted. Legal experts tell the Los Angeles Times that presidents have no authority to cut off federal funds for alleged violations of the First Amendment, and U.C. Berkeley computer scientist and founding director of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Inteligence, Stuart Russell, said even if they did, pulling money from the nation’s premier public research university system would cripple myriad projects that benefit the nation. “For Trump to threaten federal funding, which by the way benefits the country in terms of the scientific research the campus does that helps our defense and helps our industries … seems like the act of a dictator,” Russell said. The University of California receives $9 billion in federal funds each year for research, education and healthcare.


The Hollywood Black Film Festival takes place this month from Feb. 22 to 26 at Hotel MdR in Marina Del Rey. The event is in its 14th year and is expected to preview 100 films, as well as feature panel discussions and other events. The festival has been dubbed “the Black Sundance.” For more information, go to www.hbff.org.

Connecticut

The pastor of a Connecticut church has been charged with stealing about $8,000 worth of electricity, according to news reports. The Connecticut Post reports that Bishop William Marshall, pastor of City of Life Worship and Deliverance Center in Bridgeport, was charged last week with third-degree larceny. Marshall was released on a promise to appear in court. Authorities say investigators for United Illuminating Co. had checked a meter at a building where Marshall was operating a barbershop in October. Police say even though power to the barbershop had been disconnected in 2013 for failure to pay a $4,000 bill, it appeared that electricity was still being delivered. Investigators say the meter had been illegally reconnected, powering the barbershop but not registering the service on the meter.

Michigan

A major class-action lawsuit filed by Flint residents over how the state handles changes in the city’s water that led to a lead-contamination crisis was dismissed by a federal judge on Feb. 2, reports the Detroit News. U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara dismissed the case brought by Flint activist and resident Melissa Mays and several other Flint families because “allowing claims to proceed would circumvent the SWDA (Safe Water Drinking Act).” The lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 against Gov. Rick Snyder, the city of Flint and other state and city officials that were involved in switching the city’s water system from Detroit to the corrosive Flint River, which resulted in high levels of lead being introduced into the city’s water supply.

New York

A Black woman who lost her legs to a subway train 12 years go became the latest Internet celebrity after a video of her smoking marijuana on the New York subway went viral, reports The Grio. She had won a $4 million settlement from the Transit Authority, according to her lawyer, but she has lost the money. Michelle Carter, who is now 60, lost her legs when she fell onto the subway tracks and was hit by a train in 2005. Then in 2014, she won a multi-million dollar settlement. She gave some of the money away, spent some and was robbed of the rest. Carter is now suing JP Morgan Chase for cashing an $886,339.96 settlement check that was stolen from her in 2015. “I was shocked that they cashed that check without any due diligence,” Carter’s attorney Robert Unger stated. “Many times I have written out settlement checks for $10,000 or so, and the banks wouldn’t cash them without checking everything out.” Then, on Jan. 10, Carter was videoed smoking pot on the M train. “Get the f- off my train. Bye!” she yelled back from her wheelchair. Unger says he finds the video deplorable, especially due to the fact that Carter is mentally handicapped and is not able to take care of herself. She splits her time living with family and living on the street.

North Carolina

Clero Florence remembers training at Montford Point, an African-American Marine training camp at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville. Montford Point Marines were the first African American recruits in a previously all-White Marine Corps. Florence, of Alamance County, was 19 years old when he joined. He started his training in 1943 at the segregated camp and would later be deployed to Guam. “I felt like I am a man now,” Florence said, when reflecting on his experience once leaving the Marine Corps. Florence is now 93 years old and appreciated fundraising event for him and other Montford Point Marines with ties to the area. The fundraiser was held at the Mebane Arts Center. Organizer Crystal Brown says she and others put on the event after identifying 25 Montford Point Marines with ties to the Triad-Triangle area, some that are living and others who have passed away. The fundraiser is in its fourth year. The goal was to raise $9,000 to buy bricks to put the local Marines names on that will then be added to an existing Montford Point Memorial in Jacksonville. “It’s just a great feeling knowing how you’re impacting somebody’s life who means a lot to history,” Brown said. “And when you see the turnout, it’s just a really great feeling.”

Texas

Pastor Bill Burton of the St. Thomas African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically Black church in Alto, is convinced that a burned cross found near his church was the result of a hate crime, although local authorities are hesitant to label it as anything more than vandalism, reports CBS News. According to the news station, it was Burton who discovered the cross, constructed of four tree limbs laid on the ground, and he instantly recalled a darker time in the nation’s history. “When I saw the cross burning, it was heart wrenching,” Burton said. “Just brought back the 1960s to my mind, back when they used to burn crosses at different churches.” Cherokee County Chief James Campbell acknowledged that the tree limbs were put together to look like a cross, but added to the news station that it didn’t appear as if they were used to burn down the church. A water line to the church also appeared to be busted, and a rock was used to break one of the windows. However, the sheriff’s office did not rush to label the incident a hate crime, saying that the crime didn’t appear to be what it seemed to be. St. Thomas has been around for more than 100 years and has never had to deal with an incident quite like this said the pastor. However, despite what authorities may think, Burton said he remains unmoved in his opinion.


A 10-year-old boy from McKinney has created a device that will prevent hot car deaths given that Texas has the highest number of such deaths, reports NBC News 5. Bishop Curry V, the creator of “Oasis,” said that he felt prompted to take action following the death of a baby who was left in a hot minivan near where he lived. “I knew exactly where the house was,” his father, Bishop Curry IV said. The tragedy especially hit his family because they have a 1-year-old baby at home. “Sometimes babies fall asleep and they’re really quiet, so if you’re rushing home from work or you’re rushing to the grocery store, I could see how somebody could forget,” said Curry IV. But with the Oasis device attached to the car seat, Curry V hopes to stop the trend of children dying in hot cars. The Oasis device will detect if the child has been left behind and will blow cool air until the child’s parents and authorities have been notified. “It would be a dream to have lots of inventions that would save many lives,” Curry V said. The Currys recently presented the idea in Michigan at an auto safety conference, and they have also set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of developing Oasis.

Virginia

A group of Virginia teens convicted of spray-painting an historic Black church with swastikas and the phrase “White power” have been sentenced to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The five boys, all 16 or 17, will also read books from Jewish, Black and Afghan authors, and write a research paper on hate speech, The Washington Post reported. They were also sentenced to listen to an interview with a former student of Ashburn Colored School, which they vandalized. At their recent sentencing, Deputy Commonwealth’s attorney Alex Rueda argued that the boys were likely motivated by ignorance, not racial hatred. Three of the five are minorities who also wrote “Brown power” on the building, and none had previously been in trouble with the law, according to The Washington Post. All pleaded guilty to unlawful entry and destruction of property.

Wisconsin

Three girls in Milwaukee dressed as the women of “Hidden Figures” for a school project for Black History Month. Ambrielle-Baker Rogers, Morgan Coleman and Miah Bell-Olson dressed as Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson, the trio of Black women featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” who helped NASA send astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Jerrica Rogers helped put her daughter’s outfit together so she could portray Vaughan. She told The Huffington Post the idea was part of a project at Milwaukee College Prep started by teacher, Terrance Sims. “His goal is to create a series of posters that positively affirm the excellence of his students in addition to the other students in the school as well as shine light on the beauty of African-American culture in preparation for Black History Month,” she said.

National

African American Michael Smith and Jemele Hill of “His and Hers,” which began as a podcast conceived and hosted by Smith and Hill, proved so popular that in 2014 it replaced the ESPN2 show “Numbers Never Lie,” which Smith began co-hosting with Charissa Thompson in 2011. According to The Root, ESPN is rewarding the duo’s uniqueness with its ultimate prize: the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” slot. “I think for most [sports] people, you grew up watching SportsCenter, and it’s ESPN’s baby,” says Hill, explaining the flagship’s significance. “I think for us, thinking about not only the position and the reverence it holds within the company is one layer to it, but another layer to it is all the prominent, legendary broadcasters that have come through the 6 p.m. ‘SportsCenter’ slot—(people) like Stuart Scott, Keith Obermann and Dan Patrick. So to follow in those footsteps is very meaningful.” It’s more than meaningful. It’s also historic. Hill and Smith’s “SportsCenter” takeover is the first for a Black sports duo.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.