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California

Students protesting what they believe is a “hostile climate” toward Blacks at the University of California Santa Cruz were locked inside an administrative building for three days until they scored a sweeping victory on May 4, reports KSBW 8 News. Members of the university’s African/Black Student Alliance organization took over Kerr Hall on May 2, locked all of the doors, covered the windows with slogan-filled posters and vowed to not leave until their demands were met. “If the university fails us, there will be no business as usual, A/BSA told the university’s newspaper. Chancellor George Blumenthal sat down at a negotiating table with 10 protesters at 4 p.m. May 4. Blumenthal declined to negotiate inside Kerr Hall because he had received threats and feared for his safety, protesters said. Instead, the meeting was moved to the biology building, and Blumenthal ultimately agreed to meet all four of the group’s demands. The student’s demands were mostly over the Rosa Parks African-themed house, as well as combating racism at the university through diversity training for all incoming students.


A former BET programming executive who was fired while on medical leave for breast cancer has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against BET, accusing managers of fostering a hostile work environment that included retaliation, when she complained to human resources, reports Variety. Zola Mashariki, the former exec VP and head of original programming, maintains that she was subjected to harassment and discriminatory treatment at the hands of her supervisor, former BET programming president Stephen Hill. BET announced the departures of Hill, a 17-year network veteran, and Mashariki on March 29. Mashariki joined the cabler in May 2015 after 15 years as a creative executive with Fox Searchlight. In the lawsuit filed May 3 in Los Angeles federal court, Mashariki accused BET of “egregiously reckless and inhumane” treatment in her dismissal. She asserts in the complaint that she went on leave Feb. 6 for surgery related to her breast cancer diagnosis. She had been expected to return on Feb. 10 but her leave was extended by her doctors to April 11 after it was discovered that she had another form of breast cancer. Mashariki was based in Los Angeles, while Hill was in New York. The complaint paints a damning picture of Hill as a boss and said he routinely imposed unusual scrutiny on her actions, took credit for her work, excluded her from key meetings and even sought to insert himself on screen in BET productions. The complaint details HR’s alleged lack of responsiveness to her complaints and retaliation that saw her performance reviews turn from glowing to unflattering. Mashariki also cites gender discrimination in alleging that she earned a lower salary than similarly situated male executives.

District of Columbia

The White House has fired its chief usher, the person responsible for managing the residence, staff and overseeing events, reports the Washington Post. No reason was given for Angella Reid’s dismissal. Reid is Black. Two White House officials confirmed that Reid, hired in late 2011, had been let go. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly. Reid was the first woman and second African-American to hold the post. She oversaw daily operations at the 132-room mansion and its staff of more than 90 plumbers, electricians, butlers, cooks and others. The chief usher coordinates closely with the first family, and helps ensure things run smoothly at the Easter Egg Roll, state dinners and other events. Reid joined the White House from the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

Florida

Trayvon Martin’s life was cut short five years ago, when he was gunned down by George Zimmerman during a walk home from a 7/11 carrying nothing but Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. The tragedy not only divided a nation, but stole the future away from a young man with promise. As a gesture of remembrance, Florida Memorial University is planning to honor Martin with a posthumous degree in aeronautical science during its commencement ceremony. Before his death, Trayvon expressed dreams of becoming a pilot. The degree is a move of solidarity for the university, which plans to continue to highlight the Martin family’s commitment to justice, the HBCU Digest reports. “As we approach 50 years in Miami Gardens, this commencement holds a special place in all of our hearts. This academic year is symbolic of the transformative changes that we continue to make to our academic programs that extend to benefit the community, such as our cybersecurity degree program and Cyber Warrior Diversity center that offers certificates to local residents and professionals,” Florida Memorial President Roslyn Clark Artis said. “Of special significance is awarding posthumously the Bachelor of Science degree in aviation to Trayvon Martin.”

Georgia

Valerie Hoff, an Atlanta TV reporter and frequent CNN contributor, has resigned after using the n-word in a recent Twitter exchange, reports BlackNews.com. But she didn’t use the derogative word toward another person; she used it referring to herself. An African American man named Curtis Rivers got a hold of a video that captured an act of police brutality in Atlanta. He then used his Twitter account to tweet that an overwhelming number of “news niggas” were trying to track him down so that they could get a copy of his video footage. Hoff saw the message on Twitter, and replied: “Please call this news ngga.” And that’s when the controversy erupted. Rivers responded “LMFAO,”(laughing my fing ass off) but soon realized that Hoff is White, and said, “I just looked through your photos on Twitter and realized you are not Black but called me a ngga.” Hoff then replies, “No, I called myself one.” Rivers then got angry, and said, “How would I be able to contact your manager or lawyer?” He later told a reporter from a local newspaper, “I just think it wasn’t right for her to use that word in regards to a person who is African American on herself or use that word period. If she is bold enough to say it to me being an African American then I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time she has used that word.” Hoff was later put on a two-week suspension, but as community pressure built up, she “offered to resign immediately.” She told reporters that she “was quoting something the gentleman said in a public tweet,” but said that she understands that that doesn’t make her usage of the slur “any less offensive.” She added that using the word “was incredibly stupid and reckless.”

Illinois

A major shake-up has taken place happened at Ebony magazine last week, as the historic Black publication laid off nearly a third of its staff and made plans to consolidate editorial operations with sister publication Jet in Los Angeles, reports The Root. Ebony is a monthly lifestyle magazine that was launched in Chicago in 1945, and has called the city home ever since, but as the Chicago Tribune reports, about 10 to 35 employees were laid off, including editor-in-chief, Kyra Kyles. Tracey Ferguson, the Los Angeles-based editor of Jet magazine, will be responsible for both magazines going forward. Michael Gibson, co-founder and chairman of CVG Group, the Texas-based private equity firm that bought Ebony and Jet in May 2016. “There was a significant consolidation of the editorial staff as well as some of the digital staff.” Gibson said that Ebony Media will retain a downsized Chicago office after the magazine leaves for the West Coast, and Linda Johnson Rice, newly renamed Ebony Media CEO, will remain in her role and will be based in Chicago. Johnson Publishing was the family-owned business that started both Ebony and Jet. They sold both magazines to private equity firm CVG Group in May 2016. As the Tribune notes, Ebony has struggled since the ownership shift and recently made headlines when freelance writers complained about not being paid by the publication. And subscription holders are now saying they have not received the magazine in the mail since the November issue, although it has continued to appear on newsstands. Gibson blamed the subscription delivery problem on a change in printers.

Indiana

An 18-year-old student received her college degree on May 5, more than two weeks before walking the stage in her cap and gown to get her high school diploma, CBS News reports. Raven Osborne attends the 21st Century Charter High School in Gary, where students must take college classes on a college campus to graduate. Some of Osborne’s classmates have earned associate’s degrees, but she will be the first at her high school to earn a four-year degree. It’s quite an accomplishment for a student who was once considered a slow learner, said officials. “When I was younger, I was labeled with a learning disability, but my mother always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do in life,” she told the Chicago Tribune. Osborne earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in secondary education from Purdue University Northwest, a journey that began in her high school freshman year at a local community college. She plans to return to 21st Century Charter High School in the fall to teach.

New Jersey

“8th Grade Middle School Chronicles: The Year That Changed Everything” is part of series of books written by 14 year old author, Essynce Moore. Released in 2015, Essynce’s first book “6th Grade Middle School Chronicles: Where No Secrets Are Kept” was Amazon’s Top International seller. Her second book, “7th Grade Middle School Chronicles: Oh Essynce, If Only You Could See the Future,” was released in 2016. Both books are a part of the Middle School Chronicles series that are a mandatory reading for some school curriculums. The latest book, “8th Grade Middle School Chronicles,” has completed the series … and the entire selection is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Essynce loves to empower and inspire people at schools, conferences, workshops and more. Her goal is to have her Middle School Chronicles book series in schools all around the world as a mandatory reading and a part of their curriculum. Her books prepare students for middle school, assist with self-esteem, bullying, how to handle certain situations with teachers/friends, and encourages youth to live their dreams now.

New York

A doctor was booted from a nursing home because a Black security guard claims the physician flashed a photo of a monkey at him, twice, reports the New York Post. Dr. Richard Lewkowitz is now banned from seeing patients at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in East Harlem after showing guard Wayne Knight an ID badge with the animal photo taped to it on Sunday April 30, according to Teamsters Local 272, which represents the guard. “Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center has notified us that this doctor will not be allowed on premises any more and the patients will be attended to [by] other doctors,” said union rep Matthew Bruccoleri. “We take racism and discrimination in the workplace very seriously.” Knight, 57, says it was the second time Lewkowitz had pulled the stunt—and he’d been warned against it the first time. “It hurts, I couldn’t sleep at night. I’ve had sleepless nights. It’s traumatizing to know this could happen to me a second time,” he told The Post.

Ohio

A preschool teacher was fired last week after she was caught dragging a Black child by the arm at school. The teacher, who was employed by Alta Head Start at the program’s Wilson School location in Youngstown, was spotted by another teacher dragging a child by the arm. The teacher took a picture of the situation. The school district fired the teacher and reportedly told her not to return. Joseph Shorokey, CEO of Alta Care Group, said that the teacher’s behavior did not reflect the program’s standards and was not compatible with what the other teachers held themselves to. “These fine teachers and aides should not be unfairly portrayed as anything less because of the person who was terminated,” he said. Alta Head Start reportedly apologized to the child’s parents and extended an apology to the community at large as well.

Texas

Biracial University of Texas student Rachel Malonson is facing backlash after she was announced the winner of the Miss Black University of Texas, reports the Houston Chronicle to have won the title. Despite winning the title and scholarship, Malonson hasn’t been able to enjoy the moment. After UT’s Iota Delta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi announced Malonson as the winner of the pageant on Twitter, there was immediate backlash. Malonson comes from a family where her father is Black and her mother is White. When she was announced the winner, some on Twitter were outraged and said she wasn’t “Black enough” to have been given that title. One commentor said, “You can be Black genetically and never navigate this world as a Black person. But that’s just me.” However, though most people were attacking the validity of her “blackness,” others came to her defense. Said one user, “She doesn’t deserve you putting your unsolicited opinion on her skin and her possible experiences as a Black woman.”

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.