As we celebrate our 6th anniversary, we offer a condensed version of some of our best cover stories from this past year. – OW.
‘Grim Sleeper’ suspect taken into custody
Arrest believed to conclude decade’s long investigation
By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
After the deaths of 10 Black women and at least one Black man in South Central Los Angeles over a period of almost 25 years, a man suspected of being the so-called “Grim Sleeper” was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Robbery-Homicide Division of the LAPD took 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. into custody at his home on 81st Street near Western Avenue. His arrest was the culmination of an investigation that began more than two decades ago.
LAPD Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said the Grim Sleeper serial killer was linked by forensic evidence to eight murders between 1985-88 and three murders between 2001-07. The killer was given the “Grim Sleeper” moniker because of what was believed to be a 13- or 14-year gap between his murderous rampages.
The district attorney’s office charged Franklin with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Prosecutors said he was eligible for the death penalty.
The common links in the killings were that all the victims were Black, all but one were women, and most of them were involved in prostitution or drug activity.
Franklin was described as a neighborhood mechanic who showed no signs of being capable of such horrible crimes.
After Katrina, oil spill threatened ways of life
New Orleans Blacks dispersed
By Manny Otiko
Having been battered by Hurricane Katrina, which dispersed African American families to the four corners of the country, many Black fishermen were also threatened by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The spill, caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, leaked about 12-19,000 barrels of oil a day into the ocean, according to figures from the United States Geological Survey. Considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history, it took 88 days to stop.
Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, said the spill had the potential to devastate a way of life that has gone on for generations.
“One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless,” said Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant and professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are.”
Losing a family tradition that has been around for generations puts a lot of emotional stress on people, said Burnell Tolbert, president of the Lafourche Parish branch of the NAACP. “For a lot of these guys, (fishing) is a way of life.”
Tea Party boiled over with hot displeasure
Some African Americans caught up in the movement
By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
Since President Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009, an interesting faction of political activists called the Tea Party (“tea” standing for taxed enough already) began making a ruckus.
According to TeaParty.org, the group’s core values include the belief that immigration is bad; English should be a key language requirement; a stronger military is essential; smaller government and fewer personal and business taxes; bailouts and stimulus plans are illegal; average citizens should have access to political offices, and the national budget needs to be balanced.
In March, the party verbally attacked some in the African American community, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was spat on by party demonstrators and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) was called the n-word.
There was, however, a small group of African American supporters who claim the party is for everyone.
Candidate for the first congressional district of Mississippi, Angela McGlowan, was recruited by the Tea Party for the November election. She was one of the few African American faces who sided with the movement. She was also frequently called upon to be a political analyst for FOX News.
New Hollywood reverted to old image-making
Racial politics and stereotypes
By Sikivu Hutchinson
In a film season where the most talked about performance by a young actress was that of an African American woman–best actress Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe of the film “Precious”–new Hollywood looked suspiciously like the old.
It was because of these exclusionary practices that the self-image of African Americans in 21st century film remained a political minefield.
For example, the colossal mainstream success of the Tyler Perry franchise highlighted the cultural politics of image-making. Defying traditional box office projections for so-called Black-themed movies, Perry’s films consistently ranked in the top five on their opening weekends.
On the other hand, African American filmmakers who’ve labored to bring more nuanced depictions to the screen remained ambivalent, if not hostile, to Perry’s Hollywood blockbuster status.
In 2009, the Academy passed up Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters” and Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” for awards consideration. Fast forward to 2010 and critical darling, “Precious” (directed by African American filmmaker Lee Daniels) and audience favorite “The Blind Side” both garnered Oscar nods for portrayals that some Black critics and moviegoers have dubbed condescending and stereotypical.
The mixed reaction to “Precious” reflects the overall unease about the dearth of complex film portrayals that don’t play on familiar narratives of urban Black family dysfunction, criminality and hyper-sexuality.
Urban Issues Forum marked 10th anniversary
Focus on bringing decision-makers to the community
By Stan Thomas
The Urban Issues Forum of Greater Los Angeles celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sept. 23.
Founded in October of 1999 by Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., and former Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Farrell, the Forum’s mission was to “provide the community at large and community news sources with first-hand insights into their constituencies on issues of national and local concern.”
Speaking to Our Weekly about the Forum, co-founder Samad reflected on its past, and talked about plans for the 10-year celebration.
The journey has not been without struggles. The biggest problem the Forum faced was that it had no full-time staff. On the positive side, the Forum has proven to be a viable product and people support it, as is evidenced by its longevity.
There have, of course, been many highlights.
Samad proudly noted that the Urban Issues Forum was “the first to publicly host” then-Sen. Barack Obama in October 2006, prior to the announcement of his presidential candidacy the following February.
During the 10th anniversary celebration, the Forum launched the first Newsmakers Luncheon, which honored advocacy in the community.
African fashions found space on the runways
By Kianna Shann
In the past, African fashion was most often seen during Kwanzaa and Black History month, but it has been slowly infiltrating Western civilization and becoming a distinctive presence increasingly embraced in the world of fashion.
Arise magazine’s African Fashion Collective and African Vibes’ “I Wear African” are part of the drive to position African designers in or near the forefront of fashion. These two shows featured the newest and most groundbreaking African designers.
This includes designers such as industry veteran Ozwald Boateng, Project Runway alumni Korto Momolu, and newcomer Kahindo Mateene.
Recently other designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Frida Giannini of Gucci also adopted this social trend of embracing Africa’s culture through their color combinations and designs. This effect trickled down and could be seen in brands such as American Apparel and Forever 21.
However, while historic fashion houses and their smaller counterparts tell a story of Africa through fabrics and tribal trimmings, transferring real African culture could been seen best through the hands of its people, and cut and sewn by African designers.
Sheranne Jackson contributed to this article.
Haiti’s relationship with the world
By Gregg Reese
While Haiti dominated global headlines in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake, Haitian-American relations go back several centuries to when slave ships from Africa discharged their human cargo on continents and islands throughout the Western Hemisphere.
African slave labor boosted gold refinement, and the sugar and tobacco plantations started by French settlers in western Hispaniola.
By the 1790s, news of the French Revolution and the overthrow of absolute monarchy inspired the island’s African populace, leading to full scale rebellion and eventually in 1804, a new nation with the indigenous Indian name, Haiti.
Instability plagued Haiti for the next century, as France secured an indemnity in which the former colony would pay its former slave master reparations for revenue lost due to their emancipation.
Periodically, life was punctuated by military interventions such as Operation Uphold Democracy of 1994, when U.S. troops deployed in response to a coup d’etat (governmental overthrow), and a second coup in 2004.
These among other issues may have prompted the migration of as many as 55,000 “boat people” to Florida during the 1980s.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, this issue is emerging again as the question of accommodating hundreds of thousands, if not more potential refugees after the initial problems of recovery, medical attention, and evacuation are addressed.
Author saw Black athletes as slaves
They have no control, said author
By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
William C. Rhoden, New York Times columnist and author of the provocative “Forty Million Dollar Slaves” turned Black Americans’ attention to a disguised form of slavery called professional sports. Albeit these pros make large sums of money, Rhoden pointed out who the real beneficiaries are in the industry. He says athletes are just world-class slaves, working on the plantation, with no control of anything. All they do is play the game and move from plantation to plantation as the “massa” says so.
Rhoden had a conversation about the title with Bob Johnson, the African American owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
“Do the players see themselves on a plantation? I think they do… That creates the dynamic. The owners are White, the coaches work for the White owners, and the industry is run by White commissioners. Anyone who exercises power over them is White, and they feel or believe that the owners are taking more value out of them than what the owners are putting in,” Johnson said.
Just as much of America’s wealth was built on the backs of African slaves, so much of the sports industry’s wealth is built on the prowess of Black athletes, Rhoden pointed out.
Ranking Democrats challenged on ethics
Rangel and Waters
By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
As the Democratic party looked to maintain its control of Congress, they were faced with a couple of potentially major ethics problems as autumn elections loomed. Two of its senior congressional members were being charged with violations that could change the balance of power in Congress depending on how voters are influenced.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) had been charged with congressional ethics violations (Rep. Rangel was charged with 13; Rep. Waters with three). Each intended to fight in respective House trials that were expected to take place in the fall around election time.
There are 432 members in Congress and only these two have been singled out.
Rangel maintained his innocence. The ethics panel attempted to offer the venerable representative a deal, but Rangel would not accept it and chose to fight the allegations in a House trial. (He was ultimately censured.)
Congresswoman Waters also declined to accept a reprimand to settle her case, strongly denying guilt for any wrongdoing. (Her trial was still pending.)
If a reprimand is not agreed upon, punishment can be as severe as censure (a public denouncing by Congress of the offending lawmaker) and even expulsion from the House.
Exploring Black history south of the border
By Joseph Wright
OW Contributing Editor
During Cinco de Mayo (May 5) many were unaware that Blacks had a role in that key 1862 battle that saw the Mexicans upset the French at Puebla.
Although it is not generally taught in history books, Mexico was also a key port of entry for slave ships and ultimately had a large African population. As a matter of fact, during the colonial era, there were more Africans than Europeans in Mexico.
Enslaved Blacks from the United States reached freedom in Mexico from 1776 to 1865 by collaborating with the Seminole Native American tribes. During the Seminole Wars, the U.S. government drove the Native Americans from their lands in Florida and the Native American territory. According to Rafael Magana’s “Negros y Mestizos,” the Native American tribe was looking for a new place to make their home, just as African Americans were seeking a place to be free from slavery.
Additionally, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, free Blacks and Creole Blacks escaped from Louisiana in small groups and formed communities on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
In times of social discord between Blacks and Latinos, the historical synergy of the cultures served as a reminder that both communities share common ancestry.
Some companies were thriving in the recession
Making their products stand out
By Manny Otiko
Abandoned homes, empty store-fronts and long unemployment lines. The signs were all there, indicating that the nation was in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. However, some African American entrepreneurs were thriving in the so-called Great Recession.
Selena Cuffe, president of Heritage Link Brands, a company that imports and distributes wines produced by Africans and Blacks in the Diaspora, said the key was making your product stand out from the thousands of competitors.
Our Weekly owners, David Miller and Natalie Cole, also apparently didn’t get the memo that America was in a recession. Instead of hunkering down and riding out the storm, the entrepreneurs in February 2010 expanded the reach of their 5-year-old newspaper into the Antelope Valley, with the launch of Our Weekly Antelope Valley.
The Great Recession forced Los Angeles resident Cheryl Lawson, owner of The Perfect Date, an event planning and marketing firm, to change the way she did business. She realized that social media marketing was a new trend and a fundamental shift in the way marketers do business, communicate and connect with clients.
She also said that African Americans needed to be able to transfer their skill set to a new industry or career, because one never knew when market forces might sink a current industry.
Freedom’s Sisters show traveled with Ford Corp.
20 African American women featured
By JOSEPH WRIGHT
In recognition of Women’s History Month in 2010, Our Weekly turned the spotlight on the Ford Motor Corp.’s presentation of the Freedom’s Sisters exhibit, a traveling show that featured women who have made great contributions to America, the Civil Rights Movement and feminism.
“Freedom’s Sisters tells the stories of 20 African American women whose work for liberty and equality continues to push aside limitations that constrict Americans.”
Below are only two brief profiles of the women honored by Ford who have had a profound impact on the landscape of the U.S. and the world educationally, socio-politically and artistically:
Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. She served seven consecutive terms (1969-82) as a representative from New York’s 12th District. She ran for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 1972, the first Black woman to run for that office.
The widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers-Williams (1933-present) built her own legacy. She has been a corporate executive, was the first Black woman to serve as a commissioner on the Board of Public Works in Los Angeles, and the first woman to serve as chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Hyper-sexuality: If it’s real then it’s an enigma
Psychosis or behavioral excuse?
By William Jones
Tiger Woods’ sexual escapades only added fuel to the fires of sexual addiction, or hyper-sexuality. Many people claimed to suffer from this disease, such as music artist and producers, Eric Benet and Kirk Franklin.
The term hyper-sexuality was first used in 1945 by Vienna native Otto Fenichel (1897-1946), an Austrian physician and psychoanalysis expert, according to the book, “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
Within the last two or three decades, clinicians and academia have begun to better understand the problem, unlike in the past when society was unwilling to take a honest and investigative look at hyper-sexuality.
The term sexual addiction is used to describe a person who has an unusually intense sex drive, or has an obsession with sex. Being so preoccupied with the thought of sex dominates the sex addict’s thinking and prevents the individual from engaging in work or having healthy personal relationships.
Hyper-sexual patients may receive medication and go through a treatment process similar to drug addicts or alcoholics: Individual counseling, education, support groups, counseling and a 12-step program.
However, it appears that there is no substantial scientific evidence validating the existence of hyper-sexuality. Nor is there data showing that hyper-sexuality does not exist. It appears to be an enigma in the world of sexology and psychiatric medicine.
Women combatants held their own in war
Africa has history of female fighters
By Gregg Reese
Throughout history, the enterprise of settling intra-national disputes has been considered the bastion of masculinity.
And yet, women still played a part in the conduct of warfare.
African women exercised their military prowess throughout the 1800s and into the early 20th century in opposition to European slave traders. The Herero tribes women of present-day Namibia were documented fighting German soldiers as late as 1919 in the 20th century’s first genocide.
In Africa’s post-colonial era, female soldiers and political leaders have committed the same sort of atrocities perpetrated by men throughout the annals of warfare. Former Rwandan Minister for Women’s Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, AKA the “Mother of Atrocities” is now on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the Hague, Netherlands, for ordering the rape of Tutsi women prior to killing them in the Rwandan genocide that claimed nearly 800,000 lives.
Although the armed forces are widely considered a bastion of masculine aggression, some feminists might consider assuming the privations of war and the additional hazard of actual combat to be a necessary hurdle in their own quest for equal footing with men.
Underutilization of Black media noted in census collection
Advocates for the community
By Lisa Olivia Fitch
Millions of official 2010 census forms arrived in mailboxes, and the U.S. Census Bureau, with help from such media as newspapers, was anxious to complete an accurate count of everyone living in the United States, and avoid a repeat of the undercount fiasco of 2000.
The Bureau relied on “trusted voices of the community to get the word out on the importance of completing the form,” said New America Media (NAM) Associate Editor Jacob Simas.
These media have seen a 16 percent growth in audience over five years in contrast to the meltdown of audiences for mainstream media.
Dr. Clint C. Wilson, author and graduate professor of communications at Howard University, said the under-utilization of minority media advertising was an ongoing problem.
“How will the government respond to the information they receive?” asked Wilson, citing question number 10, which asks about an incarcerated household member. “Will they build more prisons (with this information) or provide more social services?”
Wilson said that it was the media’s responsibility to not only seek the advertising dollars, but to also advocate on the part of the community at the same time.
Changing old attitudes concerning male suicide
On the increase among young Blacks
By Mary Hill-Wagner, Ph.D.
When Donna Barnes sought help to deal with her son’s death two decades ago, there were no services in the African American community for families coping with the suicide of a loved one, she said.
To help families cope with such matters, Barnes co-founded the National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide (NOPCAS). She now serves as the organization’s executive director.
“We do have some of the lowest suicide (rates among the races),” Barnes said. “But suicide of African Americans increased substantially by about 200 percent in some age groups in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Black males are at particular risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third cause of death among African American males between ages 15 and 24, behind homicide and accidents.
Some 1,958 African Americans completed suicide in the U.S. in 2007, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Of these 1,606 or 82 percent were males.
Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) is a free, 24-hour hot line available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Calls were routed to the nearest crisis center.
Disparity in health care referred to as ‘apartheid’
Closing of King seen as an example
By Merdis Hayes and Matthew Mcwhorther
When the reader comes across the term “medical apartheid,” it is defined as the medical experimentation on humans. However, medical apartheid can also be used to reference the social disparity, seen when one looks at the availability of health care and the issues of social or economic factors preventing adequate health care in regard to the poor.
A clear example of such medical apartheid and social disparity in South Los Angeles was the closing of King-Drew Medical Center. This facility, borne out of the Watts riots in August 1965, was never fully funded, staffed or supervised properly to serve the often maligned residents of the bedroom community just south of downtown Los Angeles.
When we look at the other end of medical apartheid and human experimentation, we come across pharmaceutical studies that have taken place in poverty-stricken areas and involve poor, ethnic children. One the most infamous in South Los Angeles involved an immunization given to minority children in June 1990, known as the Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine. The experiment involved more than 700 “mostly minority babies” injected with experimental vaccines.
Medical apartheid continues to exist in the United States, and was directly tied to this country’s ill socio-economic conditions. It is a major issue the Obama administration is attempting to correct.
Pot dispensaries were a hard sell in some areas
Sale of marijuana banned
By William Covington
Dispensaries in South Los Angeles were more discreet than dispensaries in more affluent areas like West Los Angeles in 2010. The majority of dispensaries in South Los Angeles displayed a simple green cross or, in the case of a Crenshaw Boulevard dispensary, the simple name “Café 420.”
The vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles was 4 to 1 in favor of the ban. The ban, which became active on January 1, covers an area that has not issued any permits to sell medicinal marijuana, so any dispensaries operating in the area the ban covers were already breaking the law.
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, giving pot the same level of severity as heroin and LSD. This classification impacts medical research, and the government feels marijuana has addictive powers, a high potential for abuse as well as no currently accepted therapeutic use.
The Obama platform promised to listen to advocates for medicinal marijuana and de-emphasize federal prosecution of violators. However, that appeared to be impossible with all the other issues the commander-in-chief was dealing with.
Study found that Blacks slept less than others
Stressors, rest preparation blamed
By William Covington
African Americans got the least amount of sleep of any ethnic group, according to a 2010 National Sleep Foundation survey. Officials believed the ability to change some of the causes of sleep deprivation were within an individual’s control, if he or she made adjustments. At the same time, there also existed psycho-social stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and racism that individuals were unable to control.
According to the Foundation and several universities participating in the March 2010 Sleep in America study, in addition to not getting enough sleep African Americans, also suffered from parasomnia (a disrupted sleep related-related event) also known as sleep paralysis (SP) at a higher level than any other ethnicity.
Thomas J. Balkin, Ph.D., chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, said African Americans should improve their sleep hygiene, which is the process of preparing for sleep. According to Balkin, this consists of having a set time to get into bed and wake up (without an alarm clock which, allows a smooth transition from deep sleep and enables a person to use circadian rhythms; make sure the bedroom is dark and clean, avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol after 2 p.m., do not perform stressful tasks right before bed, exercise on a regular basis, but complete the workout three hours before bed, and use the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
Poll results show group sleep patterns
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the Sleep in America Poll questioned more than 1,000 people, almost evenly divided among the different ethnic groups. The results were released as part of its 13th NSF’s annual National Sleep Awareness Week® campaign, held in March just before the switch to Daylight Savings Time.
Among the findings were the following:
* Blacks/African Americans report getting the least amount of sleep on workdays/weekdays (6 hours and 14 minutes). Interestingly, they also say that they need only seven hours and five minutes of sleep each night to perform at their best during the day, which is significantly less sleep than Asians and Hispanics (7 hours and 29 minutes each).
* Blacks/African Americans report getting an average of 34 minutes less sleep on a work night/weeknight than Asians and 38 minutes less than Whites.
“The finding that Blacks/African Americans say they need less sleep and get less sleep is instructive for public health professionals,” says Jose S. Loredo, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “Their total sleep time and attitudes regarding sleep may be associated with Blacks/African Americans’ higher rates of sleep apnea, hypertension and diabetes and provide sleep-related insight into how to improve awareness and education programs and, very importantly, how to improve therapy compliance rates.”
* Blacks/African Americans report the busiest bedtime routines.
* Blacks/African Americans are the most likely to report performing activities in the hour before going to bed every night or almost every night, specifically watching TV (75%) and/or praying or doing another religious practices (71%).
* Whether on weekdays/workdays or non-workdays/weekends, Blacks/African Americans spend much more time in bed without sleeping than the other ethnic groups (54 minutes on weekdays/workdays and 71 minutes on non-workdays/weekends).
* Asians report getting the best sleep, and having the least amount of sleep problems and infrequent use of sleep aids.
* Asians are the ethnic group (84%) most likely to say that they had a good night’s sleep at least a few nights or more a week. In addition, Asians are about half as likely (14%) to discuss their sleep issues with a health care professional, and are half as likely (10%) to report having been diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
* Asians are the least likely to report using sleep medication at least a few nights a week (5% versus 13% Whites, 9% Blacks/African Americans and 8% Hispanics).
* Asians are the least likely (9%) to say that they “rarely” or “never” have a good night’s sleep, compared with 20% of Whites, 18% of Blacks/African Americans and 14% of Hispanics.
* Hispanics are the most likely to say they are kept awake by financial, employment, personal relationship and/or health-related concerns.
* Overall, at least one-third of Hispanics (38%) and Blacks/African Americans (33%) report that any of these concerns disturb their sleep at least a few nights a week, compared to about one-fourth of Whites (28%) and/or Asians (25%).
* Moreover, about 2 in 10 Hispanics (19%) and Blacks/African Americans (19%) say their sleep is disturbed every night or almost every night by at least one of these concerns.
* Whites are the most likely to report sleeping with their pets and/or their significant other/spouse.
* Whites report the highest rate of diagnosis for insomnia (10%), and Blacks/African Americans have the highest rate of diagnosed sleep apnea (14%) among the four groups.
* Among those experiencing sleep problems, Whites are the most likely to report using over-the-counter sleep aids at least a few nights a week (7%). Blacks/African Americans are almost twice as likely to report taking medications prescribed by a doctor (7%) rather than over-the-counter sleep aids (3%). Asians are the least likely to report using any form of sleep medication (5%).