Tommy Hawkins, the first Black basketball player to earn All-America honors at Notre Dame who ended up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, died Aug. 16 at his home in Malibu. He was 80. He had been in good health and had gone to lay down to rest before he died, his son Kevin said. Hawkins graduated from Notre Dame in 1959 after playing three years on the basketball team. He had 1,318 career rebounds for the longest-standing record in Fighting Irish history. He was named to the school’s All-Century team in 2004 and inducted into its Ring of Honor in 2015. He led the Irish to a 44-13 record over his last two seasons, including an Elite Eight berth in the 1958 NCAA Championship. The history of Hawkins contains a bit of civil rights. Hawkins became close with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, who served from 1952-87. Hesburgh was supportive when Hawkins was dating a White woman from nearby Saint Mary’s College, and they were turned away from a South Bend restaurant that wouldn’t allow the interracial couple to dine. “That act led Father Hesburgh to ban Notre Dame (students) from eating there until my father got a public apology,” Kevin told the AP by phone. “Notre Dame walked the walk when you talk about civil rights. That meant the world to him.” Kevin said his father’s basketball teammate and future NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung led Hawkins back to the restaurant to receive the apology.
District of Columbia
Vernard Gray seethes with frustration every time he hears people talk about certain historic D.C. neighborhoods as “up and coming,” as if to completely overwrite the history of long-time residents who have called the places home for decades. That is why Gray, 76, an African American D.C. native, artist, curator and longtime cultural activist in the local arts community, has just launched a website called Made East River that offers a comprehensive directory of people who make artistic products or offer creative services in Wards 7 and 8, reports the Washington Post. “We’ve got stuff of value east of the river,” he said. “Let’s discover it. Let’s explore it. Let’s make something happen.” Gray has picked a pivotal time to start his project. In the face of rapidly encroaching gentrification in Southeast — and with it, the threat of massive change and displacement — he is hoping that Made East River will help the area take charge of its culture and history and preserve a narrative directed by African-American residents. Majority-Black Southeast is too often treated “like the backwater of the city,” Gray said. “Gentrification is happening. There’s no way of stopping it. But when they show up, they’ll think, ‘Okay, there’s something happening here.’ And they’ve got to honor that.” To promote his website, Gray has reached out to local artists, emailed community listservs and distributed fliers around Southeast. If the website doesn’t take off, Gray has backup ideas, among them hosting workshops where local artists can share their knowledge with residents.
Playing to a sold-out crowd twice, Firelight Films’ “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” played at the Black Harvest Film festival. The documentary highlights the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), reports the Chicago Defender. From a current Morehouse College sophomore to HBCU alumni and even those who did not attend an HBCU, the sold-out crowds crammed into the Gene Siskel Film Center last week to partake in a history lesson. Quotes from W.E.B. Dubois, James Baldwin, Booker T. Washington and more poured out as black and white images of young co-eds graced the screen. The pictures of Black colleges from Louisiana to South Carolina and beyond filled the big screen as the audience was invited to travel as far back as slavery, when reading and learning were forbidden. Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders,” “The Black Panthers” and “The Murder of Emmitt Till”) set the stage, showing how the inability to learn as slaves fueled the passion for education for freed slaves and put into motion the need for Black colleges and universities. The film showed how many abolitionists and churches began schools to educate freed Blacks, and exposed the politics and policies that often kept students and their institutions enslaved to the White standards of thinking.
Under the cover of night, a work crew removed the statue of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, taking down the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision from its 145-year prominent perch in Annapolis, reports the Baltimore Sun. Cheers erupted from a few dozen onlookers as the hulking bronze statute of Taney was lifted from its pedestal on the State House front lawn just before 2 a.m., clipping tree branches on its path to a waiting truck bed. It’s the latest monument linked to the Confederate era to be removed from a public square since White nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month. State officials have been under mounting pressure to take down the Taney statue. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan reversed his stance on the matter last week. His shift provided enough votes for the four-member State House Trust on Aug. 16 to approve removing the monument. Hogan’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, said the state decided to quietly and swiftly remove Taney’s statue overnight “as a matter of public safety.” The granite pedestal that supported the Taney statue since 1872 temporarily remains in place, surrounded by green plywood and guarded around the clock by two officers. The Taney statue is considered a part of Maryland’s art collection, a status that means it will not be destroyed as long as the state owns it. It has been moved to a secure facility in Baltimore County. Elaine Bachmann, deputy state archivist, said there were no immediate plans to relocate or publicly display the Taney statue, which commemorates the only Marylander to serve as chief justice.
R&B singer Trey Songz has reached a deal with prosecutors to reduce a felony assault charge stemming from a concert in Detroit. The 32-year-old artist pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to two counts of disturbing the peace in a Wayne County court. He will serve 18 months of probation. Authorities say microphones and speakers were thrown from the stage during his December concert at Joe Louis Arena. A police sergeant was punched. Police have said the singer became upset when told to end his performance. Songz, whose real name is Tremaine Neverson, was charged with aggravated assault and assaulting a police officer. He apologized to the city, saying “I love Detroit.” He says he had no intention of causing a disturbance.
Black golfers are using a new strategy to try to save the Hiawatha Golf Club, noting its significance to Black golfers as one of the first Minneapolis courses that welcomed African Americans, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. About 100 people turned out last week to protest the Minneapolis Park Board’s decision to reduce the groundwater pumping that keeps the golf course dry, a move that would close the course at the end of the 2019 season. “We decided that we needed to take matters into our own hands,” said Charles Rodgers, organizer and South High assistant golf coach. “This is the only course that allowed Black people to play 60 years ago. All of a sudden, you’re going to kill history? Nine White commissioners decided to say Black history did not matter.” The state Department of Natural Resources recommended that the Park Board reduce pumping at the course after discovering in 2014 the board had been pumping more than allowed by its state permit. The course will be reconfigured as a park—after a planning process involving the public—and park board members asked staff to explore options for keeping golf at the site in some form. But supporters are not convinced the 18-hole course should close. Harry Davis Jr., 71, a long-time civic leader, recalled his trips to Hiawatha at age 10 with his father, Harry Davis Sr., former school board member and civil-rights activist. He said the course means a lot to the Black community, including a group he belongs to called the ONGL, or Old Negro Golf League. “Hiawatha has a historical significance because it was a meeting point for the Black community,” Davis said. “It was a place of friendship and camaraderie.” Denis Gardner, national register historian at the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, said Hiawatha is part of the Grand Rounds historic district: “If these golfers can demonstrate that this property is indeed historically significant and does in fact have historical integrity, then it’s possible it could be listed individually.”
There’s a big difference between how Black young professionals in Omaha and their counterparts of other races view their opportunities in the workplace, reports the Journal Star. Black young professionals say they are five to six times less likely to recommend Omaha as a place to live and work than their peers of other races. They’re significantly less satisfied with their jobs and compensation and far less likely to believe they have equal opportunities for hiring, promotion or advancement than their counterparts. That’s according to a January survey of 675 young professionals in Omaha commissioned by the Urban League of Nebraska and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. (About 180 of the respondents identified as Black.) It matters not just to make sure people feel comfortable in their workplaces, the survey’s organizers said. It matters because to keep Black young professionals in Omaha, they need to feel welcomed and fulfilled. A committee has formed with the chamber, the Urban League and business leaders which is aimed at hammering out specific objectives to improve areas where survey respondents said Omaha is lacking. As director of talent and workforce at the Greater Omaha Chamber, Sarah Moylan said it’s critical for employees – no matter their creed, color, age or gender – to feel welcome as an integral part of the local labor force. “It is hard to hear that my friends, our friends, our young professional talent and our Black young professional talent in this city are faced with these things. That is hard emotionally to hear,” Moylan said. “If there are barriers or reasons certain talent won’t choose to live and work here, we have to figure it out.”
A Black banker in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s personal wealth management unit filed a lawsuit on Aug. 16 accusing the firm of steering top clients to her White colleagues and denying her promotions because of her race, reports Reuters. Rebecca Allen in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan said Goldman’s virtually all-White senior leadership team favors White bankers for promotions and lucrative accounts, so they earn more than Black coworkers. “Simply put, Goldman Sachs does virtually nothing to hire, promote or develop Black talent, instead focusing its efforts on retaining and promoting White employees to positions of leadership,” Allen said in the complaint. Goldman in a statement said the claims were meritless. “Our success depends on our ability to maintain a diverse employee base, and we are focused on recruiting, retaining and promoting diverse professionals at all levels,” the company said. Allen, who was hired in 2012, said that last year she was removed from an account she had worked on for three years by a Goldman partner, Christina Minnis. Allen says her supervisor met with Minnis about the decision and said she made racist and anti-Semitic comments about Allen, who is also Jewish. Minnis is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Allen’s lawyers at New York City law firm Wigdor said in a statement that they believed other Black Goldman employees would come forward with similar claims. “We can expose what is really happening behind the closed doors with regard to the denial of opportunity for entrance and advancement for qualified Black individuals,” the lawyers said. Wigdor is also representing a group of non-White current and former employees of Fox News Network LLC (FOXA.O) who say in a lawsuit in New York state court that they were belittled and marginalized because of their race. Fox has denied the claims.
The four Black members of the Dallas City Council called for the city’s Confederate statues to be removed Aug. 18, saying the action will allow the community to start healing from its racist past. Dwaine Caraway, a council member who serves as mayor pro tem, held a news conference with the other three Black council members to “present a unified statement” on the statues. Council Member Kevin Felder called the monuments “symbols of racism” and says he has talked with Mayor Mike Rawlings about speeding up a proposed 90-day study by a task force to decide what to do with the statues. “Taxpayer dollars should not support vestiges of racism, White supremacy and oppression,” Felder said. “I also support the opportunity for the chance for dialogue and action to address the continued discrimination in the city of Dallas in housing, employment, lending institutions — discrimination in contracting opportunities against Black contractors.” Earlier last week, Rawlings proposed forming a task force that would report back to the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and make a recommendation to the City Council around Nov. 8 regarding the future of the statues. The four council members said removing the statues will not be a permanent fix to Dallas’ racial issues, but they hope it would lead to a larger conversation about the city’s racial climate.
In light of the tragic events in Charlottesville, true-crime network Investigation Discovery (ID) replayed an episode of its series “Hate In America” about White supremacy. The episode, “The Klan on Trial,” is hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Tony Harris. The series showcases the heroic work of premier civil rights advocacy organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its legendary founder, Morris Dees. The SPLC is currently tracking more than 900 active hate groups across the country, including the KKK and neo-Nazis, that target entire classes of people for their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics. In addition, ID and the SPLC are partnering to develop an all-new special examining the recent surge in White supremacist activity. “While this occasion is solemn, we embrace the opportunity to spread SPLC’s positive message of fighting bigotry through education and holding hate groups accountable for their injustices,” said Henry Schleiff, group president, Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel. “Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we use our national platforms to highlight the very important work that Morris and the SPLC are doing to expose cases of extreme prejudice and, indeed, hatred.” “The Klan on Trial” explores some of the SPLC’s most riveting court cases, starting with the Michael Donald case – a heinous lynching of a young man in the early 1980s that prompted SPLC founder Morris Dees to sue the United Klans of America (UKA) on behalf of the victim’s mother. In this landmark court decision, the UKA’s violent leadership was held responsible for the unspeakably violent and racist acts of its members, helping to turn the tide against organized hate in our country. Host Tony Harris also digs deep into the deeds of notorious
White supremacist murderer Glenn Miller, who made headlines when he went on a shooting spree at a Kansas Jewish Community Center in April 2014.