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Across Black America



Susan Burton, founder of Los Angeles-based A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (ANWOL), cycled in and out of prison six times before finally receiving rehabilitation treatment for substance misuse. Over the past 18 years, ANWOL has provided reentry support uniquely supplemented with leadership development and civic engagement that also speaks to the special challenges of gender and justice. The next phase of the work is to build a bridge between the women and the larger society through the power of storytelling. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and the Weingart Foundation have awarded grants totaling $850,000 to support ANWOL’s launch of a storytelling initiative that transforms formerly incarcerated women from victims into public citizens. “JustUS Voices | Storytelling for Change” intends to give voice and agency to women whose experiences paint the human face of mass incarceration. The program will launch in spring 2017.

District of Columbia

The NAACP Youth and College Division will host two events the day before Donald Trump’s first day in office to fight against civil rights threats, reports news sources. In partnership with Justice League New York and the Empowerment Movement, the NAACP will hold a “People’s Inauguration” rally at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 9 a.m., and Chance the Rapper is scheduled to appear as a guest speaker. “We are faced with a moral and ethical crisis during this critical time in our nation’s history, after the election of Donald J. Trump,” said Stephen Green, director of the NAACP Youth and College Division. “This moment calls for young leaders to gather together and develop a strategy to protect the human and civil rights of all Americans through nonviolent resistance.” The organization’s #StayWokeAndFight initiative is a direct response to Trump taking office and will involve protests and other forms of activism. Organizers also plan to host a “People’s Inaugural Ball” on Friday, Jan. 20. Registration is currently open online for individuals and groups to join and attend. For more info, go to


According to Georgia police, former NFL star Jamal Anderson walked into a gas station and then exposed his penis in front of a clerk, reports The Grio. The Suwanee Police Department responded to a 911 call from the clerk, who said that Anderson walked into the store in the early morning and appeared intoxicated before pulling out his penis and masturbating, which prompted the clerk to call police. When police arrived, they said that Anderson did appear to be intoxicated, but the clerk declined to press charges. So, Anderson was given a ticket for criminal trespassing, and then police arranged an Uber ride home for him. Anderson is now banned from that QuikTrip location and will be arrested, if he returns there.


Chicago will pay about $5.4 million in settlements for two men killed by police officers after the city council voted to approve the payments on Wednesday. The estate of Cedrick Chatman, 17, who was shot and killed by police officers in January 2013, was awarded $3 million, while the estate of Darius Pinex, 27, who was killed during a 2011 traffic stop, was awarded $2.36 million. Both men were Black. Both killings brought increased scrutiny of the Chicago Police Department for its use of deadly force as well as criticism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of shootings involving the police. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the department.


Racism has a way of rearing its ugly head on social media, especially when screenshots are so simple to take. And now a high school student is asking for forgiveness, after calling a Black cheerleader the “N” word, reports The Root. Tyler Tackett, a student at Western High School in Russiaville, posted a Snapchat showing him, a fellow student and two cheerleaders, one of whom was Black. Soon after the photo went viral, Rick Davis, the school’s principal denounced the image on Twitter and expressed disappointment. Tackett then posted an “apology” to his Instagram. No word at press time on the consequences that Tackett will face.


A Howard County high school English teacher was briefly placed on administrative leave last week after instructing students to write a “fun” slave song during a lesson on the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Baltimore Sun reports. Howard County Superintendent Renee Foose put the Mount Hebron High School teacher on leave for four days after learning about the incident, calling the teacher “inexperienced” and the assignment “outrageous.” Foose told the newspaper: “It was offensive and out of scope with what we should be teaching.” The teacher involved in the incident was not identified and returned to the classroom on Tuesday, after the district finished its investigation. The Sun notes that on Dec. 7, Mount Hebron High Principal Andrew Cockley wrote an email to parents explaining that the assignment was part of a lesson on the book “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” and that the students were asked to make up a slave song “as a means to learn how language can be used effectively to convey feelings and important messages.” However, Cockley acknowledged, “The activity was culturally insensitive and caused discomfort for many students. The teacher has apologized to all students given the assignment and their parents. The assignment has been removed.”


A firefighter in Belding has been fired for making racist comments on Facebook. Ryan Hudson, 40, was let go on Dec. 12 after postings he allegedly made during an online discussion about Donald Trump were seen by Belding Chief Greg Moore, according to WXMI-TV. Hudson, a former Marine, had been with the department for about a year. The Facebook debate came to a head after a woman identified only as “Tarvinia” wrote that she supported the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, who has been protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. Hudson’s response included this: “F- Black Lives Matter. You are the epitome of a n– and if you think it’s just Black lives kiss my a- b– and go back to the fields that us in the north fought to free you from.” Hudson’s posts were deleted from Facebook, but not before Tarvinia took screen shots and shared them online, according to WOOD-TV. Moore quickly fired Hudson after seeing the comments. The chief told WXMI there can’t be any question firefighters will do their job regardless of a citizen’s skin color. “We don’t know it would have changed him from doing his job,” Moore told the station. “But what are you going to do? We can’t take the chance. We have to treat everybody no matter what, and we want that to happen.”


A school district is apologizing for the “unsportsmanlike” and “insensitive” behavior of its White students after one held up a Trump sign, while the rest turned their backs as a Black basketball team was introduced at a Dec. 12th game, according to The Root. As the site notes, the controversial incident took place during player introductions of the opposing team from Center High School, where the players are all Black or biracial, coach LeDale Wooten told the Kansas City Star. Center alum Toniaa Lakylia Nunn posted the video of the exchange that took place at Warrensburg High School on her Facebook page that evening. In the video, most of the Warrensburg student body can be seen turning their backs to the court as the Center players were introduced. One student can be seen clearly holding up a Trump sign. “I’m appalled by the nonsense I’ve just witnessed with my own two eyes. Like what the hell?! That’s rude!!!!!,” Nunn wrote on her posts showing two videos that have been shared more than 6,000 times. The Warrensburg school district followed up with its own Facebook post, denouncing the students’ actions.


A few years ago, the English department at the University of Pennsylvania voted to take down a portrait of William Shakespeare and replace it with something else that better represented diversity in writing. However, the portrait remained up while they decided what to replace the portrait with… until a group of Penn students decided to take matters into their own hands. The students removed the portrait and delivered it to English professor and department chair Jed Esty’s office, replacing instead with a picture of Black feminist writer Audre Lorde. “Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department,” Esty said in an email to the Daily Pennsylvanian. Esty also emailed a statement to English majors and minors saying that the photograph of Lorde would remain up while they decided what to do with the space on a more permanent basis.

South Carolina

A federal jury has found White supremacist Dylann Roof guilty of the racially motivated massacre of nine Black parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the Associated Press reports. The jury reached its verdict after less than two hours of deliberations, convicting the 22-year-old of federal hate crimes and other charges, including obstruction of the practice of religion. Roof was found guilty of all 33 charges he faced, NPR reports, for killing the church members during Bible study and attempting to kill three others in the basement of the church on June 17, 2015. The jury is scheduled to reconvene at the beginning of the new year to decide whether Roof will receive the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison, the AP notes. Roof is also facing separate murder charges in a state trial that is scheduled to begin Jan. 17. State prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty.


Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm has charged former Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown with first-degree reckless homicide in the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old Black man, according to the Associated Press. Chisholm didn’t officially announce the charge, but it showed up in online court records that also showed that Heaggan-Brown made a court appearance Thursday. Heaggan-Brown, who is also Black, shot and killed Smith following a traffic stop back in August. The shooting sparked two nights of protests across the city. The officer was later fired from the Milwaukee Police Department in October, after he was charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case.


“Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris has joined the advisory board of Scriptation, an iPad—and now iPhone—app that allows actors and writers to annotate scripts and share notes—completely paperless. Steven Vitolo, a writer’s assistant on “Black-ish,” created the app out of frustration with Hollywood’s prodigious paper wasting, which he experienced firsthand as a script coordinator, carrying reams of paper to everyone on the production—and trashing them every time changes were made. Barris became a user when he saw other writers using it at a table read, not yet knowing one of his writers’ assistants created it.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.