The Oakland Museum of California’s (OMCA) major fall exhibition, “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50,” opens Oct. 8 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party (Oct. 15, 1966) and continues OMCA’s commitment to examining topics and themes that are socially relevant and meaningful to the community. Organized by an OMCA team headed by senior curator of art René de Guzman, All Power to the People explores the party’s stories of human achievement and struggle to support the needs of the oppressed. The exhibition delves into aspects of the party that are not often told or remembered, such as its survival programs, the presence of women and rank and file members, its use of media and art, and its founding Ten point program that continues to inform and inspire contemporary movements of change today. “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50” runs through Feb. 12, 2017. For additional info, visit museumca.org.
Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, introduced Harvard professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. on Sept. 22 at a reception in his honor on Capitol Hill hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association, and its sister organization, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement. Ogletree, the Harvard Law School Jesse Climenko Professor of Law as well as founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, recently announced he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and plans to spread awareness of the condition. “Those of us who have known and worked with Professor Ogletree admire his courage, his integrity, and constant and continuing struggle to stand up for civil rights, especially the civil rights of those who have been oppressed, ignored and left off of the agenda in American society,” Rep. Waters said. “Today, we admire his willingness to share his diagnosis with the world, and we appreciate his decision to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, especially among African Americans, who are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as Whites.”
The state on Sept. 28 handed over to prosecutors a probe into the fatal police shooting of a Black motorist, as the county attorney weighed possible charges in a case that gained widespread attention through social media. According to the Huffington Post, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a division of Minnesota’s public safety department, gave its findings into the death of Philandro Castile to the Ramsey County Attorney. The information is not public because of the ongoing investigation. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement that his office would conduct a review of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation “to determine what justice requires in this case.” Choi said in a public letter earlier this month that he was weighing possible charges against Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Castile during a traffic stop. Since Castile’s death, Yanez has been on administrative leave, which is likely to continue, if/when the case goes to trial.
The University of Missouri temporarily suspended a fraternity on Sept. 28 over accusations of racial slurs directed toward Black students, in the latest incident of racial tension that has roiled the campus for nearly a year. The university action followed the national organization of Delta Upsilon fraternity, which suspended the chapter earlier. The incident began Sept. 27, when a group of White students walked past two female members of the Legion of Black Collegians’ Activities Committee. The legion said in a statement that one of the White students yelled a racial slur at the women, who then contacted other legion members. Police then arrived. “It was at this moment, outside the Delta Upsilon Fraternity house, that while police were attempting to de-escalate the situation, members of the fraternity began recording the interaction, as well as shouting a variety of obscenities at the committee,” the statement said. The legion said those obscenities included a racial slur. A suspended fraternity cannot use university facilities or participate in campus activities such as homecoming and social events, the university said. The incident follows campus turmoil last year, when student protests over what some saw as administrators’ indifference to racial issues culminated in the resignations of some top university leaders in October.
New York City last week agreed to pay $5.75 million to the mother of a mentally ill Black man who died in 2013 after he was found in his cell naked and covered in feces at Rikers Island, court records show. Bradley Ballard, 39, was locked in his cell at the problem-plagued New York City jail complex and deprived of running water and sufficient insulin for his diabetes for six days leading up to his death on Sept. 11, 2013. A report issued by the state’s Commission of Correction said his condition was also complicated by sepsis (the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death), which he developed from mutilating his genitals and not receiving necessary medical care. His cause of death was listed as a homicide. The report said the medical care, provided by a former contractor that no longer works with the city, as well as prison staff was, “so incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience.”
A not guilty plea has been entered on behalf of an Oklahoma police officer charged with first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man. Tulsa officer Betty Shelby did not say anything at her first court appearance on Sept. 30, other than acknowledging her name. Her attorney, Shannon McMurray, entered the not guilty plea on her behalf. Shelby is charged in the Sept. 16 death of Terence Crutcher, whose family sat in the first two rows of the courtroom. Prosecutors allege Shelby acted unreasonably, when she shot the 40-year-old Crutcher after she encountered his vehicle abandoned on the street. Shelby, who is White, told investigators she feared for her life. Shelby’s next court appearance is set for Nov. 29.
Social media erupted on Sept. 28 after a Snapchat screenshot went viral, showing a police officer in uniform with text that included a racial slur. Pennsylvania officer Melissa Adamson has been fired after an offensive photo with a caption read, “I’m the law today ngas” made its rounds on the Internet. The insensitive photo and caption reportedly cost her two jobs with local departments. On Sept. 28, she resigned from her part-time job as a police officer in Versailles. Adamson told a Pittsburgh news station: “I’m not a racist. That’s not how I plan on portraying myself. I love my job. I love what I do. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” She added that the derogatory term was used loosely by people around her, saying: “Everyone that knows me knows I don’t have a racist bone in my body. And people who don’t know me, I can understand why it was misconstrued to where it looks racist. But like I said, everyone who knows me knows I’m not racist.” Michael Cherepko, the Mayor of McKeesport where Adamson worked, released a statement on Facebook, saying that the post, “displays a degree of conduct and character that is far different from what I would expect from an officer in this city. It is absolutely unacceptable. Without hesitation, my office and the police chief’s office immediately concluded that this officer’s actions will not be tolerated in the city of McKeesport. She has been relieved of her duties, and her employment has been terminated.”
Police arrested an East Tennessee State University student on Sept. 28 after he disrupted a Black Lives Matter protest by handing out bananas while wearing a gorilla mask. Tristan Brettke, a freshman at the university, also reportedly had a bag emblazoned with a Confederate flag symbol and length of rope. He was charged with one count of civil rights intimidation for the on-campus incident, police told WCYB. One of the Black Lives Matter demonstrators described the scene to the East Tenneseean, the school newspaper. “I saw him come down the steps as a gorilla,” Jaylen Grimes said. “He pulled out his burlap sack and then he had the rope and whatnot and then he started offering us bananas. A lot of us didn’t take it, but I just took it as a sign of peace offering and just to show him that, just because he’s being disrespectful toward me, I won’t be disrespectful toward him.”
A federal judge on Sept. 30 ordered the state to explain why it may not be complying with express instructions to freely provide voter identification cards to any and all qualified voters who request them, especially Blacks. An appeals court last month allowed Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement to remain in effect for the November elections, but instructed the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles to automatically mail a free photo ID to anyone who goes to the DMV to start the ID process even to voters who have only some of the required documentation. A pair of troubling news reports in The Nation and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published last week told a very different tale: The DMV was giving conflicting and sometimes erroneous information about the voter ID requirement, and was turning away voters who otherwise should have been issued a voter card or given assurances that they’d get one in the mail. One Black voter, for example, had all his documents except a birth certificate but was still turned away empty-handed by confused state workers, which would be in direct violation of the August appeals order. The organization then shared the man’s ordeal with the two publications.
In light of these reports, U.S. District Judge James Peterson said on Sept. 30 that Wisconsin may be violating its obligations under the ongoing voter ID litigation. He gave state officials one week to look into these failings and report back to him.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced $8.4 million in grants that will be used by organizations in 24 states to provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal and military veteran farmers and ranchers. “USDA was created to be ‘The People’s Department,’ and in the past eight years, we have made tremendous progress in correcting past mistakes and creating a more inclusive culture within our organization. Part of that legacy includes supporting farmers and ranchers with diverse backgrounds and experience levels,” Vilsack said. “The grants announced today will be leveraged by local partners and help bring traditionally underserved people into farming, as well as veterans who want to return home to rural areas.” The awards include grants to Tuskegee University, Arkansas Land and Community Development, Florida A&M, Southern University, Mississippi Minority Farmers Alliance Inc., Oklahoma Women in Agriculture Association and Alcorn State University, among others. The grants are provided through USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program and administered by USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO). Secretary Vilsack has said that it’s a priority to build a new era for civil rights at USDA and ensure that all customers and employees are treated fairly, and that all Americans are treated with dignity and respect. Under Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has reached historic settlements with African American and Native American farmers who have faced discrimination from USDA in past decades. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to improve our Civil Rights record, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read “Chapter Eight: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.”