(244740)

Arkansas

Complaints from a Black police officers association in Little Rock have prompted a department-wide memo from Police Chief Kenton Buckner, who wrote that disagreeing with agency decisions is not the same as being discriminated against, reports ArkansasOnline.com. In a letter sent to the city’s board of directors earlier this month, the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association called for an investigation into the “discrimination, inequities, and disparaging treatment of minority officers and supervisors” under Buckner’s leadership. Buckner once responded to the complaints from the Black officers group by sending out a four-page memo to all police personnel. In the memo, Buckner said he strives to be consistent and fair in his decision-making while keeping in mind the best interests of the department and the city. He said discipline is a subjective area of his duties as chief, and criticism of discipline is often based on rumors and partial information. “Officers have the right to disagree with management decisions, but disagreement does not mean you have been the victim of discrimination,” Buckner wrote. City directors say the association’s letter is unlikely to lead to an investigation by the city board. City Director Joan Adcock said she has not heard any other directors talk about conducting an investigation, and the city board does not involve itself with personnel matters.

California

A Los Angeles County Superior Court granted a motion for class certification in a lawsuit that alleges that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act in its employment practices, reports A New Way of Life. The community organization estimates that 40,000 people may have been affected, many of who have past criminal records. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by two clients of A New Way of Life, which helps former prison inmates blend back into society. According to the lawsuit, when people applied for positions, Disney had them sign an agreement that waived their legal right and their expunged records showed up in background checks. By the time the background check company was notified the practice was not appropriate, thousands of positions applied for were no longer available. In a press release, A New Way of Life applauded the recent ruling and said: “Disneyland’s hostile attitude toward people with past criminal records is what perpetuated the vicious cycle of mass incarceration, alienation and improvidence.”

Florida

A candidate for mayor in St. Petersburg told Black reparations activists to “go back to Africa” during a mayoral debate last week, reports United Press International (UPI). Paul Congemi, who is running as an independent, directed his rant toward Jesse Nevel, a mayoral candidate who is chairman of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, a group of White allies of the African People’s Socialist Party that organizes “in the White community for reparations” to the Black community. “Mr. Nevel, you and your people, you talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations,” Congemi said. “Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.” Despite angry shouts from the many Nevel supporters in the crowd, Congemi continued: “My advice to you, my advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa, go back to Africa. Go back!” On his candidate Facebook page, Nevel, 27, said Congemi’s remarks were representative of a larger problem surrounding “the struggle for justice for the Black community” in the country, which he said was “the defining question to which all candidates must respond.” Both Congemi and Nevel are running against the Republican and Democratic candidates in the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Massachusetts

The sword that belonged to the commanding officer of the first all-Black regiment formed in the North during the Civil War has been recovered after being lost to history for more than 150 years. The British-made sword carried into battle by Col. Robert Gould Shaw was stolen after he was killed during the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry’s ill-fated attack on Fort Wagner, S.C. in 1863, a battle portrayed in the 1989 Oscar-winning movie “Glory,” reports NBC News. It was found recently in the home of one of Shaw’s distant relatives and is scheduled to go on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society this week, the anniversary of his death. “I got goose bumps when I saw it,” said Anne Bentley, the organization’s curator of arts and artifacts. Society President Dennis Fiori called it the “holy grail of Civil War swords.” The weapon’s whereabouts was one of the war’s great mysteries. After Shaw — who, like all officers in Black units, was White — was killed, his body was stripped of clothing and belongings by Confederate soldiers. The sword was recovered about two years later from a Confederate officer shortly after the war ended and returned to his parents in Boston. Shaw — played by actor Matthew Broderick in the movie that also starred Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman — had no children of his own, so the sword ended up in the hands of his sister, Susanna Minturn. Eventually it was found in another relative’s house and turned over to the museum.

Missouri

Three Black St. Louis police sergeants and a union that represents Black city officers have sued the city, alleging discrimination in the department’s promotion practices reports St.LToday.com. Sgts. Reginald Davis, a 27-year veteran of the department, Ja-Mes Davis, who has 16 years of service, and Heather Taylor, who started in 2000, filed suit July 21 in St. Louis Circuit Court. The Ethical Society of Police, which represents about 250 officers on the force, most of them Black, is also a plaintiff. Taylor is the organization’s president. The three sergeants claim their department gave preference to White colleagues for promotions to lieutenant in 2014; the sergeants say they were passed over in favor of non-minority candidates. The lawsuit says the three sergeants were excluded from 16 promotions to lieutenant announced in July 2014 and that only one of the 16 officers promoted was Black. The suit claims the department failed to use “neutral, outside evaluators” during interviews, to prevent cheating on tests, and to properly train and monitor internal evaluators. Internal evaluators were allowed “to evaluate candidates against whom they had personal biases and/or had previously disciplined,” the suit said. The lawsuit seeks lost wages and punitive damages.

Pennsylvania

There is a museum like no other in Philadelphia. You probably would not have heard about it, it is not listed anywhere and there are no signs from the motorway, reports Metro.Co.UK. Only the hand-carved wooden sign in the garden hints that the Victorian house is not like any other home in the world. For years, Vashti Dubois was frustrated over not seeing any images of Black girls or women in museums and art galleries, so three years ago she decided to do something about it. The 56-year-old turned her house into The Colored Girls Museum, celebrating everything about Black women and their place in the universe. Standing in the hallway, which screams with color due to every inch being painted, she said: “If things ain’t right you got to make them right, and if you can change things, you gotta change them.” After opening one room to the public, she decided to turn her bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen and her son’s bedroom into art galleries. ‘There are a lot of museums about a lot of different things, so we thought there should be one about the colored girl, because there are no places that look at their experiences. We want to show who she is in her day-to-day life as a sister, a lover, a friend, an artist, a victim. We want to show that if there were no colored girls, the system would collapse.” As well as the museum’s collection of artifacts, paintings, dolls, textiles and sculptures, artists take over rooms and spaces for art installations. At first Dubois sought the help of artists she knew personally – but word soon spread, and soon she was being contacted by some of the world’s best upcoming artists. For more info, go to www.the coloredgirlsmuseum.com.

Washington

A jaywalking ticket in Seattle will set you back $68. Seattle police are writing a lot fewer jaywalking tickets lately — last year, the total was just 160, according to Seattle Municipal Court records. The numbers have dropped steadily since 2010, when police issued 461 citations. Even with the decline, however, one pattern persists: A disproportionately high percentage of jaywalking tickets in Seattle are written to Black people, reports the Seattle Times. Of the total, 1,710 jaywalking tickets issued by Seattle police from 2010 to 2016, 447 — more than one in four — went to a Black pedestrian. In any given year during this period, the share of tickets received by Black people never dipped below 20 percent. In 2016, 28 percent of the citations were written to Black people, who represent about 7 percent of the city’s population, according to census data. “On the face of it, it appears to be a disparity,” said Seattle Police Assistant Chief Perry Tarrant, adding: “I’d have to do a deeper dive to determine where and how and who are issuing the citations in order to say there’s some kind of disparity in the number of citations issued to African Americans.” Tarrant notes that the way the police department collects data on race has serious limitations. Officers determine the race of an individual based on appearance, and can only pick one of five categories: Asian, Black, Native American, White and unknown. The department does not track Hispanic ethnicity. “We have a very diverse population, and we squeeze them all into five categories that may not necessarily be appropriate,” Tarrant said. Even so, he said he does not believe that officers are over-categorizing people as Black when issuing jaywalking tickets.

Wisconsin

A consumer trade show targeting the Madison area’s African-American population grew and moved to a new location, reports Madison.com. The Heymiss Progress Black Expo which took place July 22 at Madison Area Technical College’s Truax Campus featured more than 60 vendors and included, for the first time, a job fair with in excess of 40 employers represented. The inaugural event was held in 2016 at the Urban League of Greater Madison on the city’s South Side, but the new location provides more space, room to grow and for the addition of food carts. The job expo served as another way to bring more people to the event, said Sabrina Madison, the expo’s energetic founder. Not everyone who comes to the expo wants to shop, so I wanted another motivation to get people out there,” Madison said. “I decided to create a space for networking, for job-searching and a place for the Black community to buy things that appealed to us.” The job fair included representatives from Metro Transit, the Madison Police Department, UW Health and MATC, among others. Vendors offered a variety of products and services including clothing, body products, jewelry, custom handbags, candles and financial planning. Madison is founder of the Black Women’s Leadership Conference and created the Madison Black Business Expo Black Friday Edition in November 2016 that had 60 vendors, packed the atrium of the Villager Mall and had sales of nearly $23,000.

National

A lawsuit filed July 18 by the NAACP claims President Donald Trump‘s controversial voter fraud commission is motivated by racial discrimination against voters of color, reports the New York Daily News. The suit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, said that the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is working to disenfranchise and intimidate people of color. Trump launched the commission through an executive order on May 11 designed to investigate his unsubstantiated allegations of electoral misconduct. So far, the group has requested that every state turn over extensive personal information on voters, the report says. But the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Ordinary People Society, another national civil rights group, will not tolerate an illegal investigation and attempts at voter suppression. Both civil rights groups are seeking to stop the commission from comparing voter rolls to a list of non-citizens provided by the Department of Homeland Security. “That process, however, is not a reliable method to identify voter fraud, and it is likely to generate numerous false positives, with a disproportionate impact on voters of color,” the suit says. Trump’s repeated and unsubstantiated claims that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election are stated in the suit, reports the Washington Post. The suit alleges that Trump and his commission’s statements are “grounded on the false premise that Black and Latino voters are more likely to perpetrate voter fraud.” The NAACP lawsuit is the latest in at least seven other suits against Trump’s commission. Several separate challenges have been filed by groups in Indiana, New Hampshire and Idaho, the Post reports.