Judge Greg Griffin, a circuit court judge in Montgomery, is a habitual Facebook user with nearly 5,000 friends, reports the Washington Post. He posts regularly, sometimes multiple times a day, and often shares life experiences. In April 2016, he talked about one such life experience. Griffin wrote in a lengthy Facebook post that he was stopped by police officers while he was walking in his neighborhood with a stick in his hand. The officers told him that they were looking for a man with a crowbar who fits his description. Griffin pointed out that he was not holding a crowbar, and that doing so wasn’t illegal to begin with. He then showed the officers a badge proving that he’s a judge. “Throughout the ordeal the officers were courteous. However, it was aggravating to be detained when the only thing I was guilty of was being a Black man walking down the street in his neighborhood with a stick in his hand who just happened to be a Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge in Montgomery, Ala. Lord Have Mercy!!!!!” Griffin wrote. Now, almost a year and a half later, Griffin’s post about his encounter with police—specifically his allegation that he was stopped solely because he is Black—is being scrutinized. The judge is presiding over a murder case involving a White police officer accused of shooting and killing an unarmed Black man. Defense attorneys argue that what prosecutors say happened in February 2016, when Montgomery police officer Aaron Smith stopped Gregory Gunn, was “eerily similar” to Griffin’s personal experience with officers from the same police department. For that reason, they say that Griffin can’t be an objective arbiter of the law—at least not in Smith’s case—and he should recuse himself. The Alabama Supreme Court must now decide whether it should force Griffin off the case. The court on Sept. 8 decided to postpone Smith’s October trial to allow the attorneys to present arguments.
District of Columbia
Angel Rich, from Washington, D.C., has developed a very innovative app called Credit Stacker that teaches students about personal finance, credit management and entrepreneurship in a fun and engaging way, reports BlackNews.com. The app is so popular that 200,000 people downloaded it to their smartphones and tablets within just two weeks of its launch. Even more, Forbes has named her “The Next Steve Jobs.” In addition, the app has been named the “best financial literacy product in the country” by the office of Barack and Michelle Obama, the “best learning game in the country” by the Department of Education, and the “best solution in the world for reducing poverty” by JP Morgan Chase. It has won first place in several business competitions including the Industrial Bank Small Business Regional Competition, the Prudential Financial National Case Competition, and the Goldman Sachs Portfolio Challenge. All in all, Rich has won more than $50,000 in business grants. She was raised in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Hampton University. She also studied at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China. After winning Prudential’s annual National Case competition for her marketing plan to reach millennials, she worked briefly as a global market research analyst for Prudential, where she conducted more than 70 financial behavior modification studies.
Georgia-based, Black-themed school supplies company, Innovative Supplies Worldwide Inc., has embarked on a mission to help Hurricane Harvey flood victims, reports BlackNews.com. The company is currently offering consumers the option to purchase school supplies from its website to donate to school-aged children and young adults who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. Customers can purchase high-quality and inspiring school supplies for as low as $3.68. The company will cover the shipping costs to send these supplies to flood relief victims in Texas. Innovative sells creative school supplies that are designed by local artists and manufactured by teenage employees. Its merchandise includes notebooks, stickers, pins and cups featuring unique and inspiring designs of African American culture and iconic civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Among the company’s popular products are notebooks of a Black female scientist conducting an experiment in a lab, Tupac wearing an ‘I am Sandra Bland’ T-shirt, and a Black teen girl sporting an afro and ‘Be Unique’ T-shirt. The company is run by disabled vet Nneka Brown-Massey. Since its establishment in 2016, Innovative has been featured in Essence and Jet magazines. The company is also the 2017 winner of the Georgia Launching Opportunities by Exporting (GLOBE) Award. For further information or to purchase supplies to donate to Hurricane Harvey flood victims, please visit: www.innovativesupplies.net
A group of students from an Iowa high school were disciplined last week after a photo of them wearing white hoods, waving a Confederate flag and burning a cross began circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press. One student is also seen holding what appears to be a rifle. The photo first appeared on Snapchat and made the rounds from there, reports WHO TV.com. The students in the image attend Creston Community High School (CCHS) and are members of the Creston/Orient-Macksburg football team. CCHS Assistant Principal Jeff Bevins told the Creston News that they got ahold of the picture on Sept. 6 and immediately investigated what transpired. “It is a student discipline issue, so no comment as far as what has been done with the students,” Bevins said. “We have taken action already.” Principal Bill Messerole told the publication via e-mail that “the picture does not represent CCHS, our school system or our community.” “We are proud of how our students and staff conducted themselves today after the picture became public. It is of the utmost importance that our students feel safe and welcomed in our district,” he wrote. Messerole also told the AP that the photograph was not taken on school property. A member of the Creston football team sent a statement defending his community and stressing the values of his team to WHOtv. The anonymous note said that “the five individuals that were involved with the picture are clearly in the wrong and they will face the consequences eventually.” The surfacing of the photograph comes just days after students at a central Indiana high school were banned from wearing the Confederate flag after it caused altercations in the school’s hallways.
When Robert Williams III graduated last spring from a Detroit public high school, sticking around town to go to college at Wayne State University was a no-brainer for him, reports the Detroit News. He gets to be around his family, be a part of the community and participate in Detroit’s evolution. “It’s in the area, and I love my city,” said Williams, who graduated from the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine in Detroit. “I see no reason to leave.” But Williams, 18, is an anomaly. He is among the small number of African-American students from Detroit Public Schools Community District heading to Wayne State. And those numbers have plummeted over the past decade—from 168 men and 348 women newly enrolled in 2006 to 33 men and 54 women in 2016, the latest data available from WSU. The 87 new African-American students from Detroit’s public schools represent a fraction of the 27,298 students enrolled in 2016 at Wayne State, a university in the heart of a city working to reinvent itself. Some have framed the drop as a barrier to Detroit’s revival—and Wayne State’s hopes to be part of it. “Wayne State has always had a wall around it, and it’s been disconnected for far too long,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, a civil rights organization. “They need to do more to tear down that fortress of being a Midtown institution by getting into the neighborhoods … otherwise, they can’t take part in the Detroit to come.” But WSU officials say the situation involves more than enrollment numbers, and that they are working to not only enroll Black students but bring them to the finish line of graduation.
Six Black Philadelphia Police Department narcotics officers say their two White supervisors are racist and corrupt, according to two Black civic leaders and an attorney for the officers, reports Philly.com. Rochelle Bilal, Guardian Civic League president, said at a news conference at the organization’s Girard Avenue headquarters that the two narcotics supervisors—Chief Inspector Anthony Boyle and Inspector Raymond Evers—should be removed from their posts. Two of the Black officers filed complaints about Boyle and Evers with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in late August, according to Center City attorney Brian R. Mildenberg. One of the complaining officers is Staff Inspector Debra Frazier, the unit’s highest-ranking Black official and its integrity officer, and the five others have decided to remain anonymous because they are afraid of retaliation, Mildenberg said. A civil lawsuit is being explored, he said. Complaints against Boyle and Evers include: allowing a White corporal to park his Confederate-flag-decorated car on city property; encouraging officers to falsify documents and evidence related to arrests; and denying Black officers equal opportunities for overtime and work assignments. Boyle allegedly referred to Black civilians as “scum” and to Black civilian slayings as “thinning the herd,” Bilal and Mildenberg said. No evidence was offered at the news conference to support the allegations.
A Pennsylvania city has paid $95,000 to settle a lawsuit by a Black college student who said he was wrongly shocked with a stun gun after police stopped to question him about a robbery, reports ABC News. Alexander Aron was a 22-year-old Alvernia University student in October 2014 when two officers stopped him outside his home because they were looking for “an Afro-American wearing sweats” who had just robbed a grocery store, according to the lawsuit. Aron retrieved his identification card, and although he said it appeared the police no longer thought he was the robbery suspect, they continued to harass him because of his race, he contends. When police asked him his name, Aron said it was on the ID card, which prompted an officer to arrest Aron, put a handcuff on his wrist and then slam him face-first onto the porch, according to the lawsuit. Four officers allegedly attempted to subdue Aron by punching, kneeing and hitting him, and then zapping him with a stun gun, the lawsuit said. The charges, including resisting arrest, were later dismissed after cellphone video surfaced. The bystander who shot that video, Eli Heckman, was also arrested and had his phone smashed by police. He settled a wrongful arrest and excessive force lawsuit for $45,000 after criminal charges against him were also dismissed. Allentown officials didn’t acknowledge liability as part of the settlement, and have not commented on it.
Alex Young and Toschia Moffett, Black parents in Columbia, are suing their daughter’s school for its reported failure to protect her against bullying during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, reports the Blaze. According to the complaint, the child was purportedly subjected to racially motivated abuse by her peers—who were also Black—and was reportedly accused of “acting White.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the daughter was subjected to physical abuse. The family said that officials at Hand Middle School were reportedly made aware of the girl’s treatment, but the school reportedly did not act in a sufficient manner to permanently stem the tide of bullying against their daughter. According to Columbia’s the State newspaper, Black students at Hand Middle School allegedly “called [the student] racial slurs such as ‘Oreo,’ ‘White girl,’ ‘wannabe White girl’” and “generally maligned her for ‘acting White.” The lawsuit also alleged that “in addition to being repeatedly pushed, shoved and tripped in hallways and chased during recess and physical education, [the student] also suffered several notable physical assaults.” Other assaults against the student reportedly included having her face slammed with a backpack—an incident that allegedly chipped two of the student’s teeth and bloodied her nose. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the young girl was forced to hide in a bathroom stall to eat her lunch in order to avoid physical and verbal attacks by the students. According to the lawsuit, several of the reported incidents were witnessed by others and had been captured by surveillance cameras inside the school.
Black workers earn less than their White counterparts in a worsening trend that holds even after accounting for differences in age, education, job type and geography, new Federal Reserve research shows, reports Bloomberg. In 1979, the average Black man in America earned 80 percent as much per hour as the average White man. By 2016, that shortfall had worsened to 70 percent, according to the research released last week from the San Francisco Fed, which found the divide had also widened for Black women. “Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings for Blacks relative to Whites,” San Francisco Fed Research Director Mary Daly and her fellow authors wrote in the report, adding that this could be due to hard-to-measure factors including discrimination or school-quality differences. “The opportunity to succeed is at the foundation of our dynamic economy. In this context, large and persistent shortfalls for African Americans, or any other group, are troubling,” they wrote. The San Francisco Fed’s study marks a growing focus by the U.S. central bank on inequality and the lagging employment performance of U.S. minorities. Chair Janet Yellen has talked about the subject and the Philadelphia and Minneapolis Feds have set up institutes to study inequality and social mobility. The increased attention stands in contrast to the past, when the topic was rarely investigated by Fed research staff or broached by officials, who viewed the problem as outside their remit for monetary policy.
After eight years of protection under Declared Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Donald Trump decided to rescind the program last week, putting some 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants in legal jeopardy and at risk of being deported, reports NBC News. One of them is 25-year-old Jonathan Jayes-Green. An Afro-Panamanian immigrant who came under DACA protection at age 13, Jayes-Green said the administration’s announcement has triggered a palpable level of fear and anxiety among those protected by DACA and other undocumented Black immigrants, but it has also stiffened their resolve. “They sent a very clear message that it’s okay for them to use our bodies as property and nothing more. Our fear is that this is a set-up,” he asserted. “They rescinded the program which means they want something else. The administration is pushing Congress to put this right legislatively, but they want to use us as bargaining chips, offer us as inducements for the border wall.” The DACA recipients, often called Dreamers—most of whom came to the U.S. as children—have had the support of about 75 percent of Americans and a broad swath of those in Congress. There are 3.8 million Black immigrants in the United States from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Europe, and they comprise about 10 percent of America’s foreign-born population. In New York, Black immigrants make up almost 30 percent of the total Black population in the state, while Florida is second on the list with more than 20 percent of its Black population being foreign, according to the Black Alliance For Just Immigration.
Frank Dobbin, a professor at Harvard, has declared that most corporate diversity programs have failed, reports American Banker. In a Harvard Business Review article last year, he said these programs alienate managers and endorsed an alternative: a voluntary, consciousness-raising program that includes rank-and-file staff along with supervisors. Wells Fargo, a bank that’s faced racial discrimination allegations, is willing to try. As part of a $35.5 million settlement with Black financial advisers, Wells Fargo agreed to take non-financial measures to create a fairer workplace. The institution borrowed ideas from Dobbin, including focus groups with senior business leaders and Black brokers in the bank’s private client group and wealth brokerage services operations. “The question was, ‘How do you get good people in a room together who all care about the issue of changing the outcome and get ideas?’” said Linda Friedman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Wells Fargo’s efforts are an important experiment for the financial-services industry, which has faced accusations of discrimination for decades. MetLife Inc. agreed this year to pay $32.5 million in a settlement, and in 2013, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch resolved a racial-discrimination employment case for a record $160 million. The companies didn’t admit guilt. “In general, the settlements don’t lead to changes in the composition of the workforce,” Dobbin, who’s now advising Wells Fargo, said. “That’s why both sides were kind of interested in implementing the things that we have shown to be effective in other firms: targeted recruitment and mentoring.”