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California

When Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards asked Shonda Rhimes to join the health care organization’s national board, Rhimes responded with the word she wrote the book on: a resounding “yes.” The two powerhouse women talked to Elle magazine about why Rhimes ended up joining the national board after volunteering for the Los Angeles board and her local Southern California affiliate, and why Richards wanted her to get on board in the first place. “She’s been a great supporter for a long time,” Richards said, before recognizing Rhimes’s commitment to amplifying minority voices.” To me, the most important work we can do now at Planned Parenthood is make sure that the voices of all those folks are heard, particularly in this political environment. And there’s just no one better at utilizing the power of storytelling than Shonda Rhimes.” And Rhimes is ready to show up and get to work. When asked what she’s eager to do in her new position, her answer was straightforward: “I haven’t totally defined what I want to do yet, but mostly I want to be of service in any way that I can.” Rhimes said that she’s grateful that she’s always had access to medical care, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to devote her time to making sure other women have access as well. “The fact that I’ve never had to use a Planned Parenthood, the fact that I’ve never been in need of medical services I couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be concerned about the fact that other women don’t have that access,” she said. “I think that’s important.”

Georgia

The man in charge of helping find a new city manager for Villa Rica is himself out of a job after allegations surfaced he was systematically trashing applications of candidates because they were Black or had a military background. This all came to light after an open records request from reporters at Fox 5 in Atlanta. Michael Jackson was hired in early March as interim Villa Rica city manager. He was not a candidate for the permanent job. One of his duties was to screen applications as they came in for the open city manager position. But on March 7, according to documents obtained by Fox 5, Jackson told Villa Rica human resources director Stephanie Rooks that “Villa Rica was not ready for a Black city manager and did not want to get their hopes up by interviewing them.” The documents are handwritten notes Rooks took that she says summarizes her conversations with Jackson. Rooks said that on March 21, Jackson “handed an application back to me, with a yellow sticky note w/ No! written on it; when it was handed back, he made the comment that he was Black.”

Rooks said Jackson also wanted to screen out all “military applicants due to the fact that, in his experience they were all abrupt and too stringent.”

The Human Resources director noted that Jackson was “conducting Internet research or scanning resumes to determine race or veteran status through professional experience or affiliations.” “I remember chills going down my back thinking how could this happen?” admitted Villa Rica Mayor Jeff Reese, who presides over a town of 14,000 people. More than a third of the population is Black. When questioned about his tactics, Jackson denied it was his idea but resigned.

Illinois

Young Chicago-area people have started a campaign to inspire Chance the Rapper to run for mayor of the Windy City in 2019, reports Billboard. The irony is that campaigners are looking for Chance to knock out incumbent Rahm Emanuel … Chance’s dad, Ken Bennett is Emanuel’s chief of staff. The Chano4Mayor2k19 drive seeks to have the Coloring Book rapper take on incumbent Emanuel in 2019, aiming to deny the former Obama administration official a third term. On the chano4mayor.com site, fans write, “Hey Chance, We think you’d be a great mayor. We love your music—we’ve been following your career from the first 10 days. We also love the work you’ve done to give back to the city that raised you. You represent Chicago on the world stage and you do us proud … We think if you ran, you would win. And if you won, you would do a good ass job … You’d send a message that Chicago is ready for a new generation of leadership. The address for the site, launched on Apr. 2 by a group of fans, is inspired by Chance’s “Somewhere in Paradise song.” The organizers cite a number of reasons that Chance should get a chance to run the city, including the following cited facts about Emanuel’s tenure: 50 public schools closed, the shutdown of six of Chicago’s 12 mental health clinics and the Department of Justice finding a pattern of civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department, including the murder of Laquan McDonald. As evidence of Chance’s qualifications, the group notes that he has supplied coats to the homeless, has a long-running open-mike series for local teens and his recent $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools.


On April 4, Mound City made history by electing Allison Madison, the first woman selected for the position of mayor for the small town as well as the first African American. ‘It’s history,” Madison told local television station KFVS of her win. “Now that part, that’s amazing, that’s just awesome to me and I guess I’m happy about that! I was just happy and I thought ‘okay I’m now the mayor of Mound City, but work is going to begin’,” she said of the moment that she realized she would be the next mayor. Madison added that she wasn’t always sure of her choice to enter politics: “I just thought ‘okay, I’ll just try this to see what can I do’. To see if I can make a difference in the town.” But she pressed forward, submitted her name and then put signs in yards until her campaign started to truly gain traction. She ultimately ended up winning and making history. Now, Madison hopes that she can be an inspiration to other young people as to what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.”You can do this,” she said.

Kansas

Topeka’s city council plans to consider naming a bridge on S.E. 10th Street after Nick Chiles, the founder and editor of an African-American newspaper called the Topeka Plaindealer. Published from 1899 through 1958, the Plaindealer became the longest running Black newspaper in the United States, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. The newspaper had the largest circulation of any African-American newspaper west of the Mississippi River, said a letter the city received supporting the move from native Topekan Deborah Dandridge, field archivist/curator of African American Experience Collections for the University of Kansas Libraries. Topeka’s city government on Thursday made public the preliminary agenda for its April 18 meeting, where members plan to discuss but not act on a proposal to make Chiles the namesake of the bridge over the Shunganunga Creek, just west of S.E. Branner Trafficway. The city is currently finishing up a project to replace the bridge. Preliminary plans call for the governing body to consider approving the name change May 2, according to a document in the agenda packet.

Louisiana

In support of National Minority Health Month (April), Dibia DREAM and Hyatt B.L.A.C.K. of Hyatt Regency New Orleans have teamed up to launch Carrying Dreams Home, an initiative aimed at raising awareness about the ever growing epidemic of childhood hunger resulting from poverty and economic challenges facing families throughout New Orleans. As part of Hyatt’s commitment to global service, Hyatt B.L.A.C.K. will provide students participating in the Dream Academy at Kipp Central City a re-useable “DREAMPak” filled with non-perishable foods and healthy snacks in order to ensure they are receiving nutritious meals over the weekend, as part of the company’s annual April Month of Service. The bags will be distributed at the end of each week during the month. “Our goal is to provide resources that help bridge and eliminate health disparities as well as accelerate health equity in New Orleans. When our kids come to school hungry, they are unable to focus, and incapable of putting forth maximum effort in the classroom,” said DIBIA Dream founder Brandon Okpalobi. “Carrying Dreams Home is one way we hope to help improve these conditions for them, while alleviating the hunger gap we are seeing in many of these children. Our kids need and deserve proper nourishment—not only during the school day or while attending an afterschool program, but also on those days they are not attending school. Through this program, we aim to provide just that.” The announcement of the Carrying Dreams Home initiative comes on the heels of the recent re-launch of the Dream Academy at Kipp Central City, where 100 percent of participating students are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, which provides healthy meals to more than 13 million students who live in food insecure households, according to the USDA.

Michigan

Big Sean is being spotlighted for “inspiring Detroit youth” through his philanthropic work. The 29-year-old rapper was honored with the key to the city of Detroit on April 1. Sean showed his gratitude on Twitter addressing the city’s Mayor Michael Duggan. “Thank you Mayor Duggan for the key to the city of Detroit,” he tweeted. “I know how big of an honor this is!” Aside from joining fellow honorees such as Stevie Wonder and Sammy Davis Jr., the Detroit native has become the youngest person to be awarded with the city’s key. Duggan praised Sean’s commitment to improving the Motor City. “The work that @BigSean is doing with his foundation is inspiring Detroit youth to achieve their dreams.”

New Jersey

Ifeoma White-Thorpe was shocked when she got her eighth acceptance letter to an Ivy League school, reported The Grio. The New Jersey teen had applied to every single Ivy League university, and all eight of them wanted her. “I was like, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, like this might be eight out of eight and I clicked it and it said ‘Congratulations’ and I was like oh my goodness!” White-Thorpe told CNN affiliate WABC-TV. White-Thorpe had applied to all eight schools because she wants to study biology and ultimately develop a global health career. Since all of the Ivy League schools “have great research facilities,” she applied to all of them. But now she has a decision to make. According to her parents, the decision is hers alone, but she hadn’t chosen yet.

Ohio

Four Liberty Township brothers—Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick Wade, known as the Wade Quads—are now being called, the Ivy League Quads because they have all been accepted to two top elite colleges in the country, reports NBC and CNN. “I was just stunned,” Nigel said. “I was speechless, because . . . I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening, and I actually got in.” The 18-year-olds were in track practice the moment they received acceptance emails from Yale and Harvard universities. When their parents got the word their sons had been accepted, they were overwhelmed. “I was at work like always, when they texted us with the news and then I was home, like, when the last one came in, you know,” said their mother, Kim Wade. “And I remember I think reading that, “Oh, my goodness. All of them, you know, got in?” Being taught the importance of education, the boys never neglected their studies while playing sports such as football and soccer. Their father Darrin, the “Wade” of the household, hasn’t checked their grades since they were in third grade. He has full confidence in his sons’ abilities because of the resources and support they were given along with hard work they display. The lowest grade the boys ever received in school was a B. . . . “I feel like that’s been the goal for all of us, is to be active learners, not just, you know, grade chasers.”

Pennsylvania

Long before Charles L. Blockson became a prominent historian, scholar and author, he was a boy with a budding passion for the history of his people that could be found bound between the pages of books. In a Philadephia Tribune interview with the recently named recipient of the 2016 Philadelphia Award, Blockson recalled a White, elementary school teacher telling him, “Negros had no history.” They were born to serve Whites, she informed her young student. Blockson said when he shared the comments with his parents, they countered, “Negroes have a strong history.” And his father, Charles, and mother, Annie, began exposing him to lessons on prominent people of his race. Now, at age 83, Blockson is considered a world-class historian of the African-American experience. He will receive the coveted Philadelphia Award this spring in recognition of his lifelong, personal mission to document the African-American history of Philadelphia and around the country for future generations. “His life work truly embodies the mission of the Philadelphia Award, and fellow members of our community are fortunate to have access to his impressive collection right here at Temple University,” said David L. Cohen, chairman of the board overseeing the award and an executive at Comcast Corp. In 1984, Blockson donated his personal collection of rare publications and artifacts to Temple University to start the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. It is one of the nation’s leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent, and now contains more than 500,000 books, documents and photographs. Blockson is also co-founder of the African American Museum in Philadelphia and has contributed to the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora at Pennsylvania State University and the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution.

Utah

Beginning this fall, the University of Utah will launch a first-of-its-kind initiative to provide African American doctoral students a network of peers, mentors, professional development and financial support intended to enhance their success as students and professionals. The African-American Doctoral Scholars Initiative will provide eligible students with scholarships up to $5,000 annually, among a host of other resources. Applications are being accepted through April 14. “Many African-American doctoral students are only prepared to conduct research upon graduating,” said Deniece Dortch, program manager for the itiative and a postdoctoral research fellow.

“We recognize these gaps and want students to be competitive in the job market once they complete their degrees,” Dortch said. “This program provides students with a network of peers, mentors and professional development workshops to set them up for success.”

While the initiative will create a learning and mentoring community for African-American doctoral students, it also will provide financial resources that can be used for research and travel to research and academic conferences. So what we’re doing as part of the initiative, we want to alleviate some of these costs,” said Dortch. Scholarships can also be used to help cover the cost of research and preparing doctoral dissertations. Beyond financial assistance, the initiative will offer doctoral students opportunities to serve on research teams, present at national and international research conferences, attend grant-writing workshops, wellness presentations, dissertation boot camps and work with African-American faculty and alumni mentors. For more info, go to https://doctoralscholars.utah.edu.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.