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African American news for the week of May 14, 2015.

Micheeal Obama (140182)
Micheeal Obama


First Lady Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony at Tuskegee University last weekend. She urged new graduates to soar to their futures. Obama told the students that the trademark of Tuskegee is one of rising hope for all African Americans. She pointed to the Tuskegee Airmen, who endured humiliating slights to serve their country, and she also cited how the legendary school’s first students made their own bricks to build the school. “Chart your own course and make your own mark in the world,” she told the graduating class.

Alabama State University is offering a course on genealogy June 21-26. Participants will have the opportunity to learn how to research family history at repositories where African American records are located and explore archives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). According to ASU, the course will also delve into myths and mistakes that take researchers in the wrong direction, distinctive types of records that document Black biological lines and more. The class is sponsored by the Levi Watkins Learning Center, the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture. For info, go to


The Organization of American Historians (OAH) will host the Diversity in the American West summit July 17-19 at Glendale Community College. The three-day event will focus on the diverse people, places and historical themes of the American West and includes panel discussions and tours to historical sites. Sessions will delve into topics such as how African Americans, Latinos, Japanese, Native Americans and others have shaped the history of the West. The public can attend the conference. For more info, go to www.oah.rorg/2915RegionalMeeting.


The ACLU will represent two Black men—brothers —in what the organization says is a case of racial profiling by Colorado Springs police. Police allegedly stopped Ryan and Benjamin Brown over a cracked windshield. After the stop, a video taken by Ryan shows police handcuffing his brother. Allegedly, cops pointed a Taser at Benjamin and ordered him to exit the vehicle. He was immediately handcuffed, searched and placed in the back of a police vehicle. Eventually, he was given a citation for obstructed view. Ryan was also dragged from the car and held at gunpoint. He was also accused of “interfering with official police duties.” The ACLU’s Colorado legal director, Mark Silverstein, said, “What Ryan and Benjamin Brown experienced at the hands of the Colorado Springs police is sadly all too familiar for young people of color.” Silverstein said the video shows that the Browns’ repeated request for information as to why they were stopped were ignored. The ACLU is seeking that the charges against the brothers be dismissed.


In Dover, a lawsuit is underway after the police were forced to release a dash cam video showing a White officer kicking a Black man in the face. A federal judge ordered the release of the film, which was recorded in 2013, adding that the video was not considered confidential. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lateef Dickerson. Police were attempting to arrest Dickerson and ordered him down on his knees. As he went to his knees voluntarily, officer Thomas Webster IV is seen kicking him in the face with such force that Dickerson was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw. Webster has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault.


Nine sheriff’s deputies in Savannah were fired last week over their alleged involvement in the death of student Matthew Ajibade on New Year’s Day. According to Reuters, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office based its decision on an internal investigation, as well as a separate review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Allegedly, Ajibade injured three deputies as he was being checked in on charges of domestic violence, resisting arrest, and battery. He was put in an isolated cell, and when deputies went to check on him later, he was unresponsive. The investigation revealed that Ajibade suffered from bipolar disorder and that at some point, he was handcuffed to a chair and tased. The finding of the investigation has been turned over to the prosecutor’s office, which will review the report and decide what, if any, criminal charges will be filed against the deputies.

Atlanta is the host city this week for the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit, which will include panel discussions with speakers such as Steve Harvey. Topics include the winning formulas for successful entrepreneurs, how to grow your network, the necessary tools to maximize your business and how to access capitalists looking to invest in businesses. Sponsors include Black Enterprise magazine and Nationwide Insurance. The event is being held at the Hyatt Regency from May 13-16.


A young Black man has turned down a scholarship worth $80,000 because he reportedly fears the violence in Chicago. Lander Braggs, 17, wants to study engineering, but he turned down the scholarship to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology because

Lander Braggs (140178)

he says he fears the city’s recent history of violence. He told ABC 7 in Chicago, “I’m just thinking, like, I don’t want that for me. I want to be able to go through life and not have to worry about what’s going to happen to me tomorrow. With all that’s going on in Chicago, with all the violence and everything, I just wanted a different environment.” Instead, Braggs has accepted a smaller scholarship to Bradley University in Peoria. His mother says she will find a way to make up the money for her son to attend that school. “If I have to pay something, that’s fine,” she said. “I can’t put a price on peace of mind.”


News continues to develop out of Baltimore as the city’s population continues to respond to the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died after police took him into custody. State Attorney General Marilyn Moseby announced the indictment of six Baltimore cops after days of peaceful protests and violence in the city. One of the activities protestors carried out was the disruption of the Baltimore City Council meeting on May 4, when a group of young people entered the meeting chambers and with signs and chants, totally shut down the council meeting. The group demanded that the city release people who were jailed for protesting. “Free all protestors, drop all charges! Protestors shouldn’t go to jail,” they shouted. At the time, about 30 protestors were still being held in city jails for participating in demonstrations. The group asked the council to pass a resolution on the spot calling for the immediate release of those still in police custody.

In a related story, multi-platinum selling artist Prince has released a song called “Baltimore” which addresses the death of Freddie Gray. Some of the lyrics go: “Does anybody hear us pray? For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray? Peace is more than the absence of war.” Prince brought the song to Baltimore last Sunday when he made a rare public appearance and performed the song at an event called the Mother’s Day Rally 4 Peace. The concert streamed free of charge on Tidal, Jay Z’s new music streaming service. Listeners were encouraged to donate to Baltimore charities aimed at the city’s youth, as well as the Baltimore Justice Fund.


Former NBA star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson and friends raised about $1 million for the Lansing Promise scholarship program in Lansing. Johnson spoke at a fundraising dinner in the city and told attendees that he owes his success to Lansing, where

Magic Johnson (140179)

he grew up. The money will go toward scholarships for kids in the area. The dinner raised $200,000, Johnson kicked in another $300,000, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores added $250,000 and former Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley added another $25,000. Johnson also took time to speak to some students, urging them to get a good education so that they could “attain their dreams.”


Samaria Rice, the mother of the 12-year-old boy killed by police at a Cleveland park, is still waiting for answers into the death of her son Tamir. Rice moved to a homeless shelter not long after the boy’s death because she felt she couldn’t live near the scene. With assistance from family and friends, Rice has since been relocated to a house. A federal civil rights investigation into the boy’s death is ongoing, although attorneys for the officers involved have tried to stop it because they are concerned that the cops’ testimonies will incriminate them and affect their criminal case. Rice continues to accrue legal expenses, however, and her supporters want the lawsuit to continue. A GoFundMe campaign has so far raised about $46,000 to help Rice with legal costs.


Some University of Texas students have expressed their disgust about a statue of Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederacy. The statue has been vandalized and student leaders on the campus are also looking into taking action to have the statue removed. “We thought of the ties to slavery and some would find it offensive,” senior Jamie Nalley said to the Associated Press. Student leaders and the NAACP say that the Davis statue has no place on the school campus. “I think it’s offensive that you exalt Jefferson Davis but you don’t exalt Abraham Lincoln,” commented Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP. The student government’s initiative to remove the statue has been sent to the school’s administrators.


Portsmouth will host the 25th annual Umoja Festival May 22-24. It is a free festival that features African culture, musical performances and children’s activities. This year, R&B singers Peabo Bryson and Jasmine Sullivan will perform on Saturday, while Earl Bynum and the Mount Unity Choir will take the stage on Sunday. Festival grounds will be decorated like the city of Eldoret, Kenya. Festival goers can enjoy the African experience through food, arts and crafts, and other means. For more info, go to


Dr. Ben Carson has joined the 2016 race for president of the United States as a Republican. The 63 yearold is a retired neurosurgeon who has a history of attacking President Barack Obama, as he did in 2013 at the National Prayer Breakfast. Carson

Ben Carson (140181)

was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George Bush for his work as a doctor. He has a history of making controversial comments, but is a popular candidate among conservatives. For more info on Carson and his views, go to

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.