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Across Black America week of March 2, 2017



The mayor of Selma refused to back down Feb. 24 in a fight that has united unlikely allies – Black civil rights marchers and white Civil War re-enactors who refuse to pay thousands in fees to hold their events. Both groups say the city is squeezing them with demands for thousands of dollars in up-front payments to stage annual events that bring tens of thousands of visitors to an otherwise sleepy community where unemployment is high and boarded-up homes and businesses are a common sight, reports the Associated Press. Plans for next month’s Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march of 1965, are up in the air over the city’s demand. And the re-enactment of the 1865 Battle of Selma, involving hundreds of history buffs in Civil War garb, has been canceled because organizers couldn’t afford the tab. The jubilee draws mostly Black people, the battle re-enactment mostly white people. So now, two groups with different interests and membership rosters are united in being upset with Mayor Darrio Melton and other leaders who say the city can’t afford the police overtime, fire protection and cleanup the events require. State Sen. Hank Sanders, a Black Selma Democrat, said organizers of the four-day Bridge Crossing Jubilee still plan to hold the celebration March 2-5 but won’t pay the demanded fee. The event in part recalls Bloody Sunday, when Black marchers were beaten by white police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.



Rep. Maxine Waters is not playing when it comes to newly elected President Donald Trump. The Democratic congresswoman called members of President Trump’s cabinet with alleged ties to Russia “a bunch of scumbags” who only have interests in oil, gas and money when she made an appearance on “All In With Chris Hayes” on MSNBC last week. Waters noted mounting special interest concerns and how she suspects some advisers’ roles are to remove sanctions that former President Barack Obama imposed on Russia.  “I just think the American people had better understand what’s going on,” she told host Chris Hayes. “This is a bunch of scumbags, that’s what they are, who are all organized around making money.” Waters pointed to Trump’s friends and cabinet members, which she referred to as the “Kremlin clan.” Hayes asked if she was referring to former Exxon CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “I’ll tell you this, Tillerson is there to get these sanctions lifted,” she replied. “I believe it… just watch him. He’s gonna continue to work on it. This is important for him.” Waters, who boycotted Trump’s inauguration, called for an investigation into Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin relationship and the alleged hacking of the 2016 election in an interview with Tamron Hall. She called Trump a “danger” and said that she refuses to work with him.

“I don’t honor him. I don’t respect him. And I don’t want to be involved with him.”


It’s been a month since someone spray-painted the word “nier” on an interracial couple’s home in Stamford over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. However, the couple has refused to remove it, saying that authorities are not properly investigating the incident, according to the Root. Now the couple has received a blight citation from the city, carrying a $100 daily fine. The Stamford Advocate reports that the couple believes that the people who were supposed to protect them are instead attacking them after receiving the citation for refusing to remove or cover up the slur, which was spray-painted in huge letters across their garage door. Heather Lindsay, who is white, said that she would not remove the slur until authorities “do their job” and “not just cover it up and sweep it under the table as they have done in the past.” Lindsay said that her home has been vandalized multiple times and that at least three neighbors have yelled the n-word at her husband, Lexene Charles, who is Black. “For them to be called nigger, it must be so hurtful that they can easily just erase the board and suffer within, quietly by themselves, and act like nothing happened,” Darnell Crosland, legal counsel for the state’s NAACP, told the news site. “And, in fact, that’s what the Stamford police asked them to do. They were requested to take the sign down … and to just act normal, like nothing happened.” Crosland is calling on the Stamford Police Department to conduct a full investigation of the hateful vandalism and to assure the couple of their safety.

District of Columbia

A recent $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help Georgetown carry out its commitment to produce scholarships that help the nation better understand and address its legacies of slavery, racism and discrimination. “The university has made a commitment to elevate and accelerate its efforts to address the persistent, enduring legacy of racism and segregation in the American experience,” says Georgetown Provost Robert Groves, a co-chair of the Working Group on Racial Justice. “This grant from the Mellon Foundation is a notable recognition of the importance of that commitment.” The five-year Mellon grant will assist the university in establishing a center for racial justice, hiring faculty experts in the field, supporting postdoctoral and graduate fellows and funding a series of visiting lecturers.

In addition to funding two faculty spots beginning in 2017-2018 academic year, the Mellon grant will help fund two postdoctoral fellows for two-year appointments.

The grant also will go toward the creation of two five-year Patrick Healy Graduate Fellowships, which will be awarded for the 2017-2018 academic year to graduate students in the humanities.

The grant comes after the release this past September of a report containing recommendations from the university’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation (SMR), which was charged with reflecting on Georgetown’s historic involvement in the institution of slavery.


The son of the late boxing great Muhammad Ali was detained at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last month and asked about his religious preferences, a family friend says. Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, was returning to the U.S. from Jamaica with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, when customs agents pulled them to the side on Feb. 7 for questioning, Chris Mancini, a family friend and attorney, told the Louisville Courier-Journal after the incident. Customs officials let Camacho-Ali proceed once she produced a photo of herself with her former husband Muhammad Ali, but since Ali Jr. did not have such a photo, they detained him for almost two hours. During his detention, he says officials asked him questions like “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?” Ali Jr., who like his late father is Muslim, is an American citizen with no criminal record. He was carrying a U.S. passport with him at the time of his detention. “This is an outrage,” said Mancini, who is a former federal prosecutor. “I don’t know what is going on with Mr. Trump’s claim that his ban is not religion-based. We do not discriminate in this country based on religion.”


Rapper 2 Chainz decided to venture into the restaurant business in Atlanta recently. But two months into his Escobar Restaurant and Tapas’ operation, it failed a health inspection. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the restaurant only scored a 59 – 69 and below is considered failing. This is a restaurant owned by a man who once rapped, “I’m ballin’ like Mr. Clean, I gotta keep my kitchen clean.” Officials observed the person in charge was “not demonstrating knowledge in several food-borne illness risk factors.” According to the report, there was an ice machine with red and black mold-like substances inside. Officials also reported expired milk and raw hamburgers stored over collard greens. Justin Andrews, Escobar spokesman, said the restaurant heralds customer service and safe food handling. Andrews acknowledged the new restaurant encountered some challenges and shortcomings, but said they have addressed them and look forward to the re-inspection.



Students at Westminster High School are planning to take a stand after school administrators in Carroll County demanded that teachers take down posters promoting diversity from classrooms, deeming them “political” and “anti-Trump.” The Carol County Times reports that incident unfolded Feb. 16 when the posters were removed because of the allegedly negative view of President Donald Trump, Carroll County Public Schools spokesperson Carey Gaddis said. The posters were those from the famous “We the People” campaign by artist Shepard Fairey, which depicts Latina and African-American women, as well as women wearing Muslim hijabs, using the same red-white-and-blue scheme of the “Hope” election posters featuring Barack Obama. When teachers were originally told by school administrators to remove the posters, the teachers responded that the posters spoke to diversity and, thus, they were allowed to put them back up, according to the report. However, Gaddis told the newspaper that after further research into the posters and what they stood for, school system officials deemed them anti-Trump. Administrators asked teachers to once again take down the posters. Some students are organizing a demonstration to protest the removal of the posters. Said student Madi Macera: “I want people to understand that these are American people. They are a staple of who America is as a whole.”



This year, Harvard University’s annual Humanitarian Award goes to Rihanna, who is receiving the honor for her philanthropic work, which ranges from breast cancer research to promoting education, reports Harper’s Bazaar. “Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” sais S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director. The singer was also commended for creating the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program (named after her grandparents) for Caribbean students seeking to attend college in the U.S. She also supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which helps provide children, especially girls-in developing countries, with access to education. She and Prince Harry got HIV-tested together in Barbados to raise awareness on World Aids Day, and she also walked with hundreds of thousands for the Women’s March in New York City. On Feb. 28, Rihanna went to Boston and accepted the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University.

New Jersey

Since 2002, the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey – the first such museum of its kind in South Jersey – has been expanding the public’s knowledge about Black history through permanent exhibits and temporary installations in South Jersey and at its original location in the Newtonville section of Buena Vista Township, reports To commemorate its own history-making existence, the nonprofit museum hosted a 15th anniversary celebration on Monday, Feb. 27 at the museum’s Atlantic City location at the Noyes Arts Garage. Tickets went for $80 a person and included the “business casual” event as well as parking, cocktails, food, live entertainment and a silent auction. Proceeds from the event will support the continued free admission to the museum and its Traveling Museum education program. About 20,000 people a year visit the two sites. The museum features about 15,000 artifacts and pieces of memorabilia that depict the culturally rich history of African Americans from slavery through the Civil Rights movement and beyond. Ralph Hunter Sr., who is 79, founded the museum. The museum began with about 3,000 antiques and pieces of memorabilia from Hunter’s own collection, artifacts of African American history that had lined his Atlantic City apartment for years, prompting his friends to refer to his home as “The Museum.” Others began donating their own unique finds pertaining to African American history.

New York

On Feb. 23, a makeshift food cart offering free food only to “Black people” caused outrage. “Free Food for Black People,” read three handmade signs on the cart that was set up outside the Bronx Supreme Court, and it was those signs and their enforcement that had people up in arms, reports the New York Post. “Are you kidding me? If I did something like that, it would be considered hate,” said one woman who was reportedly turned away from eating any of the food at the cart. A Post reporter was also reportedly turned away, though a woman running the cart said that the food was not restricted only to African Americans, saying, “Mexican people are Black.”


History buffs may recall that former President Thomas Jefferson actually owned hundreds of slaves when he co-penned the Constitution containing the words “All men are created equal. But there were also reports that he was smitten with a very young slave named Sally Hemings, and it has been confirmed that she bore many children from him, all of which were the only ones freed when he died. Monticello, the estate where President Jefferson lived, will now give the enslaved young woman and mistress of Jefferson “a room of her own.” The Washington Post reports that the room where historians believe Hemings slept (just feet from Jefferson’s bedroom) was turned into a restroom in 1941. The Post reports that “Hemings’s life is poised to become a larger part of the story told at Monticello,” and her space will be open to the public next year. In addition, Monticello, a 5,000-acre working plantation, will now reconstruct buildings on Mulberry Row, where the enslaved lived and worked. Jefferson reportedly owned 607 slaves over the course of his life.


Google has pledged to invest $11.5 million in support of racial justice, reports The Grio. The money will be split between 10 different causes: $5 million will be donated to the Center for Policing Equality. “CPE’s National Justice Database is the first in the nation to track national statistics on police behavior, including stops and use of force, and standardizes data collection across many of the country’s police departments,” says Justin Steele, a principal. According to Steele, there is no uniform method of data collection and this makes comparisons between statistics from one agency to another, nearly impossible. “We believe better data can be part of the solution, which is why we’re investing in organizations using data and evidence to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” Steele says. USA Today has noted that this doubles the amount of money Google has donated to such causes. It is also part of the Google core belief that better data means solving problems that have stumped us so far.

Jay Z has become the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s in the same class this year with Berry Gordy, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Babyface. The official induction is in June. Jay Z has also reportedly decided to start his own venture capital company with Jay Brown, president of Roc Nation. The pair is reportedly seeking a third partner for the venture, which will focus on aiding startup tech companies. Jay Z has already dabbled in investing in a couple companies, including Uber Series B luggage and Jet Smarter, a private jet firm.


Nicki Minaj has lost distribution for her clothing line with retailer Kmart. A representative for Kmart confirmed the split after news of it began making the rounds on social media. According to Kmart, it was “thrilled that we were the first real retail partner to create a custom apparel line for Nicki Minaj,” a rep for Kmart told Billboard. “From the development of the line, to showcasing it in stores, to designing exclusive capsule collection, we have enjoyed a positive relationship with Nicki Minaj and her team over the last three years. As our partnership came to a close in 2016, we would like to thank Nicki Minaj for being a great partner and wish her continued success in her future endeavors.”