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Across Black America week of March 9, 2017



The Metropolitan Sun Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) celebrated its tenth year of existence in Maricopa County and the state of Arizona. The public was invited to join NCNW on Saturday, March 4, at the Pyle Adult Community Recreation Center in Tempe to celebrate the anniversary and African American History Awareness Month. The group honored several Black business owners, including Elizabeth White and Carolyn Lowry. “Black women from the days of Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, all the way up to Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm, and beyond, have made a difference,” said NCNW President Kath Kennard. “Our organization was founded to celebrate women, sisterhood, the community and families. We are committed to continuing the work of our founder Mary McCloud Bethune, and later Dr. Dorothy Height and so many others that have cared enough about the community to try to make a difference.”



Ten people were arrested after President Donald Trump supporters and counter-protesters clashed during a downtown Berkeley rally that turned violent and left seven people injured, reports the Assocated Press. Berkeley police said five people were arrested on Saturday for battery, four for assault with a deadly weapon and one for resisting arrest. It said officers confiscated a dagger, metal pipes, bats, pieces of lumber and bricks. None of the injured required hospital treatment. Supporters of president Donald Trump clashed with counter-protesters in the famously left-leaning city of Berkeley, in what appeared to be the only episode of violence around several pro-Trump events across the country. Protesters from both sides struck their opponents over the head with wooden sticks. Trump supporters fired pepper spray at counter-protesters as police in riot gear stood at a distance.


The African American Golfers Hall of Fame, the first in the country, will soon be built in Riviera Beach, reports CBS News. Maurice Wright is a married father of two, and has been playing golf for more than 17 years. Hearing the news of an African American golf museum being built in his own backyard makes him ecstatic. “It’s a great organization. I would love to be part of it because I’m in the game. I work on the golf course. When I hear about golf, I get the itch,” Wright said. The Riviera Beach City Council approved the contract to build an Inner City Golf Learning Center and an African American Golfers Hall of Fame Museum. It will be located along West 13th Street, with the building itself taking up approximately 3,000 square feet. The site will also encase a short game area with a putting green and sand trap. The total cost of the project will run from $300,000 to $500,000. “I think it’s great for African American kids to get them off the streets,” Wright added. Organizers say they will be setting up a fundraiser within the next week and hope to break ground by the end of May.


An all-Black orchestra based in Atlanta will be performing at Center Stage in Atlanta on March 31. The group has already gained some notoriety, when it was featured in a new video from rappers 2 Chainz and Migos. According to Black News, the group is called Orchestra Noir. “It is with great pride that I announce our new concert will be held in our new home, Center Stage Atlanta,” music director Jason Ikeem Rodgers said. Rodgers, who holds two master’s degrees in orchestral conducting and has conducted all over the world, founded Orchestra Noir out of a desire to bring the world of orchestra to Atlanta’s African-American community. And the community has embraced the orchestra, with more than 700 guests in attendance at its last event. Founded in 2016, Orchestra Noir acts as a living testament to the African American legacy of excellence and resilience in Atlanta and the nation. Its mission is to showcase and celebrate the Black community’s rich cultural achievements in music through concert events in Atlanta.



Chance the Rapper met with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on March 3, and the rapper left feeling “a little bit flustered,” according to The Grio. Chance said that he was disappointed that he got “a lot of vague answers” during the meeting at the James R. Thompson Center in which the two men discussed funding for Chicago Public Schools, though the governor characterized the meeting as a “good exchange of views” and suggested that he and Chance use their respective spheres of influence to affect the change in the community. “I have power in some ways; you have great power in other ways. If we stood together, worked together, I think we could get big things done.” For his part, Chance said that he was just glad “the kids are on the table” with respect to the discussion of the school district’s budget crisis. “I’m here ’cause I just want people to do their jobs,” he added. Still, he seemed optimistic about how the meeting as a whole went down, despite his expressed frustrations.

“Chicago Public Schools and I did not lose today,” Chance tweeted after the meeting. “Please don’t let that become the narrative. Monday morning I’ll have a plan.”


Viola Davis won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and this week she was honored at Harvard’s Cultural Rhythms Festival where she became the recipient of the university’s 2017 Artist of the Year award. Davis now holds an Emmy, a Tony and an Oscar. “It’s a very sacred place, the stage and the screen. At the end of the day, what I do as an artist is channel characters and their stories and those moments in their lives that we sometimes hide,” she said. Davis added that she would try hard to exceed the expectations that come along with her Harvard award but she “can’t promise I won’t make some crap every once in a while.” Past honorees of the Harvard award are Quincy Jones, Sharon Stone, Andy Garcia, LL Cool J, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, and Salma Hayek.


A Black police captain fired after a controversial burglary investigation has sued the department, claiming other officers, mostly White, blamed him to cover up their own offenses, reports St. Louis Today. Ryan Cousins, who was a 20-year veteran of the department, filed his lawsuit on March 1. He is appealing his firing before the city’s Civil Service Commission. His lawsuit offers the first look at his defense, since his disciplinary hearings were closed. His attorney, Lynette Petruska, called the situation “race-based scapegoating.”

“These officers did an illegal search, provided false information in a search warrant and my guy is the one who gets disciplined?” she asked. The police department referred questions to the city’s legal division. City Attorney Michael Garvin declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit and Cousins’ disciplinary hearing, but said, “In order to believe Mr. Cousins’ claims of racism, you have to believe that seven to eight officers are lying and conspiring to get him fired. We’ll have to see if the Civil Service Commission believes that and now, a jury. We do not.”

A discredited Black former journalist fired last year for fabricating stories was arrested March 3 and accused of conducting a months-long stalking campaign that culminated in emailed bomb threats to Jewish organizations, federal prosecutors said. They said the campaign was an effort to harass an ex-girlfriend. However, Juan M. Thompson is not believed to be the main suspect behind this year’s rash of bomb threats, two law enforcement officials told ABC News. “NBC Nightly News” led with the story, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” included it in its first block, reports The Root. “Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. said in a statement.” Doyle Murphy reported for the Riverfront Times in Thompson’s hometown of St. Louis. Thompson, 31, was once a reporter for The Intercept, but he was fired after the New York City-based news site found he had been making up sources.

New York

New York City-based Penguin Random House has signed a blockbuster book deal with former President Barack Obama and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama. The deal, which involves both of them penning books, is worth as estimated $60 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Obama confirmed he was planning to write a book after leaving office in a CNN interview last year. At the time, a literary agent guessed it could be worth up to $30 million. The former president and first lady are writing separate books but are selling the rights jointly. According to The Hill, four major publishers were embroiled in a bidding war for them.

North Carolina

A North Carolina school board has decided to continue ignoring pleas from a local NAACP to ban Confederate flags from all school properties. According to the News and Observer, the Orange County Schools Board of Education rejected the ban at a meeting Feb. 27, saying that it would instead establish an equity committee of the school board to advise on several issues, including symbolic speech. Members of the board tried to emphasize that hate speech, bullying or intimidation would not be tolerated. “We understand that improvement is an ongoing process, and we are committed to collaborating with our community to support the health and well-being of all students,” board Chair Stephen Halkiotis said. The Northern Orange County NAACP has twice requested that the board of education ban the Confederate flag. “To the NAACP, that includes the historical context of the Confederate flag to slavery, the Confederacy, the Civil War and Jim Crow,” Northern Orange County NAACP President Patricia Clayton wrote in a letter to school board members. “For many, the flag is a racially inflammatory symbol, which is undeniably rooted in slavery and racism. Given OCS’ commitment to serve all students, the district should not allow the Confederate flag on its campuses.”

South Carolina

Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, who is charged with the murder of unarmed Black motorist Walter Scott after a routine traffic stop in April 2015, is asking for public funding to pay for his second trial, reports The Root. The Charleston Post and Courier reports that Slager appeared to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer earlier in the case, “but a judge declined to allow government funding for expert witnesses and the private attorney representing him free of charge.” Circuit Public Defender Ashley Pennington filed the latest bid for public funding last week and said in his motion that Slager relied on donations from loved ones to support his family of five, who live below the federal poverty line, and couldn’t reasonably pay for the second trial. On Feb. 27, Pennington said that it was too early to comment on the action in the state case, and Savage also declined to discuss it until a hearing on the issue is held, the Post and Courier reports. No proceeding has been scheduled yet. Slager’s retrial for the murder of Scott is set to begin in August, but whether it actually happens could depend on what happens in the federal trial in May, where Slager faces charges of violating civil rights under the color of law, lying to authorities and using a firearm during a violent crime. Either way, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison, if convicted in either case


The University of South Carolina School of Law’s publication has for the first time elected an African American to serve as its editor-in-chief. Chelsea Evans of North Myrtle Beach will lead the 69-year-old South Carolina Law Review. Evans is a second-year law student. “I’m incredibly humbled to be elected editor-in-chief, and I hope that my election encourages more women and people of color to pursue law degrees, journal membership and the position of editor in chief,” she said. Evans, who was elected Feb. 13 by the quarterly journal’s 59 student editors, will lead it for a one-year term. She graduated magna cum laude from USC in 2014 with a degree in public health.


Business Wire is reporting that Wells Fargo has committed $60 billion to support at least 250,000 African American aspiring homeowners by 2027. The company’s commitment is a direct action to help address the lower homeownership rates in the African American community and follows Wells Fargo’s announcement to address Hispanic homeownership rates in 2015. Wells Fargo’s commitment seeks to lend $60 billion to qualified African American consumers for home purchases by 2027; increase the diversity of the Wells Fargo Home Lending sales team; and support the effort with $15 million to support a variety of initiatives that promote financial education and counseling over the next 10 years. “Wells Fargo’s $60 billion lending goal can contribute to economic growth by making responsible homeownership possible for more African Americans in communities across the country,” said Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and head of housing policy and homeownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo. “We are proud to be the first mortgage lender to make a public commitment to help increase African American homeownership. And, we are grateful for the support of key housing and civil rights organizations, who work alongside us to increase economic prosperity in our communities.”

According to gun club leaders and firearm sellers, more African Americans appear to be taking an active interest in their right to bear arms since the election of President Donald Trump, gun club leaders and firearm sellers say, reports Fox News. A national African-American gun club has doubled its membership since Election Day, and gun sellers say they’ve noticed more Black customers buying firearms. Members of the National African American Gun Association, a group that has added 9,000 members since Election Day, launched on Feb. 28, 2015, and added 4,285 members over the same time period the year before, between Nov. 2015 and Feb. 2016. “I’d be lying to you if I said Donald Trump hasn’t affected our numbers,” club president Philip Smith said. “They have jumped off the roof.” NAAGA now has more than 18,000 members in 24 chapters across the country. NAAGA leaders say that the recent increase in their membership is driven by different concerns. Smith cited the recent rise in the number of hate groups in the United States as one factor in NAAGA’s growth. “I think the main thing that has really changed is that two years ago, fringe groups were just that: fringe groups,” he said. “But now those fringe groups are kind of like, ‘It’s cool to be racist.’ Our community sees that, and it scares us. You know what, let me get a gun just in case something happens, just to make sure.”