Skip to content

Across Black America week of March 16, 2017.



A Black University of Alabama student supported by a secretive campus group long controlled by Whites has been elected student government president, breaking a barrier that seemed unlikely to fall a few years ago, reports the Associated Press. Junior marketing major Jared Hunter won the office in balloting March 7, carrying 54 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Hunter won after writing a column in the student newspaper, The Crimson White, stating he was supported by a campus organization called the Machine, which is composed of the most prestigious, historically White fraternities and sororities on campus. Blamed for various acts of wrongdoing for years, the group has controlled campus politics for generations. Hunter said he’s been told he is the first Black candidate ever backed by the group for SGA president, but race never became an issue in the election. “It still feels pretty unreal that I won,” he said. Hunter is the first Black member of the Theta Chi fraternity at Alabama and got the Machine endorsement. Running on a platform that included more intercultural events on campus, combatting sexual assault and free soft drink refills at football games, Hunter defeated two White candidates including the incumbent, who was seeking re-election. Two other Black candidates have been elected student government president at Alabama—independent Elliot Spillers most recently in 2015, when he received the support of some White fraternities. But no other Black has ever been acknowledged as being backed by the Machine.



Joni Sledge, a founding member of the group Sister Sledge, most famous for the Black family anthem, “We Are Family,” has died. She was 60 years old. Sledge was found dead in her home by a friend in Phoenix on March 11. A cause of death has not been determined. Publicist Biff Warren, who confirmed her death, said Sledge had not been ill. “On yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We welcome your prayers as we weep about the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin,” read a family statement. Sledge and her sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy formed Sister Sledge in Philadelphia, in 1971. The sisters are daughters of entrepreneur/actress Florez Sledge and acclaimed Broadway performer Edwin Sledge. Their beloved grandmother, Viola Beatrix Hairston Williams, was an alumna of the Juilliard School and of Bethune-Cookman College, where she was a personal protégé of founder Mary McCloud Bethune. When the girls formed their own group, Joni was known as artistic director.



Thanks to his reportedly out-of-control behavior, the LAPD would like to meet with Chris Brown for a sit-down interview, reports The Grio. According to officials, they have received numerous complaints concerning the singer and his home. Neighbors have allegedly called about various things, including reckless driving, drugs, noise as well as assaults. “Chris is a chronic problem who takes up a tremendous amount of our resources,” a police source explained when discussing a potential interview. The request comes on the heels of reports that Brown, is in a “downward spiral” caused by both his drug use and his anger issues. He, of course, denies that there are any problems.”I am not hurting out here. Trust me,” he said on Instagram. “Y’all gotta stop with this angry sht. I’m tired of reading about some sht as soon as I got something poppin’. As soon as I want to promote a tour, party, fking album, anything, y’all bring up something.” On March 9, Brown had a court date with ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran who is seeking a permanent restraining order against him, because she claims to be in fear for her life.



On March 10, Muhammad Ali’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr., was detained by TSA officials, again. This was the second time that Ali has been detained within a month, and he believes that it happened because he is Muslim. According to Ali’s attorney, Chris Mancini, Ali was detained for 20 minutes by TSA officials who wanted to check his ID and passport before he was allowed to board a flight home to Florida. Ali had been traveling with his mother on a trip to Washington, D.C., to speak about a different experience with TSA officials in which he was detained for more than two hours in a Florida airport. Ali and his mother spoke to Congress about the need to put an end to racial profiling, specifically drawing from his recent experience with the TSA as an example of profiling in action. “If it isn’t a Muslim ban, why did they ask about my religion?” he asked, referencing the fact that when he was detained, he was asked about his religion and also asked about where he received his name. No Republicans attended the forum in which Ali and his mother spoke. The forum itself was highly critical of the immigration policies that President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have put forward.


An investigation has been launched at North Cobb High School in Atlanta after a student allegedly made racist remarks that were captured on video and posted to social media. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the comments were originally posted to Snapchat, but a parent posted the video to Facebook. In it, a student allegedly talked about a desire to bring back slavery, expressing not only an admiration for the person who assassinated Abraham Lincoln but also a desire to “exterminating all n*s.” While the Cobb County School District has not commented on whether the student in question was punished, the parent who posted the video said that the student was suspended for three days because of the comments. The administration for North Cobb High School also sent out a letter condemning the student’s remarks. “The North Cobb High School administration and staff does not condone this type of profane and bigoted behavior in our school,” the letter said. “The message was deplorable, and we denounce everything about it. We take this matter very seriously, and we are addressing it in accordance with Cobb County School District policies and procedures. We will use this as an opportunity to remind ourselves why we are here and that we, as a school community, stand for respect and inclusion. This must be a place where all are free to learn in a safe and welcoming environment.”

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, Washington

Legal challenges against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban mounted March 9, as Washington said it would renew its request to block the executive order and a judge granted Oregon’s request to join the case as well, reports the Associated Press. The events happened a day after Hawaii launched its own lawsuit, and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said New York state also asked to join his state’s legal effort. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the state is joining fellow states in challenging the revised travel ban. Washington was the first state to sue over the original ban, which resulted in Judge James Robart in Seattle halting its implementation around the country. Ferguson said the state would ask Robart to rule that his temporary restraining order against the first ban applies to Trump’s revised action. “My message to President Trump is—not so fast,” Ferguson told reporters. “After spending more than a month to fix a broken order that he rushed out the door, the President’s new order reinstates several of the same provisions and has the same illegal motivations as the original.” Robart on Thursday granted Oregon’s request to join Washington and Minnesota in the case opposing the travel ban. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the executive order has hurt Oregon, its residents, employers, agencies, educational institutions, health care system and economy. Trump’s revised ban bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries: Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. Unlike the initial order, the new one says current visa holders won’t be affected, and removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said that the state could not stay silent on Trump’s travel ban, because of Hawaii’s unique culture and history.



After 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down and left to bake in the middle of a Ferguson street on Aug. 9, 2014, police tried to smear Brown’s character by releasing a security video allegedly showing the young man participating in a “strong-armed robbery” by pushing a convenience store clerk and taking a box of cigarillos earlier that day. Yet, in a new documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” which debuted March 12 at the SXSW Festival, a second video has emerged raising what the New York Times deems “new questions” about what happened in the hours before the fatal shooting of Brown by former police officer Darren Wilson, who faced no charges in Brown’s death, sparking massive protests in Ferguson and across the country. The new footage shows Brown entering Ferguson Market and Liquor shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over what looks to be a small bag, and takes a shopping bag that appears to be filled with cigarillos. He is then shown walking toward the door with the merchandise, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting the store. Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new footage, says the tape challenges the police narrative that Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Pollock believes that the new video shows Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and apparently receiving cigarillos in return as part of a deal. Brown’s mother questioned why that tape was released publicly while her son’s earlier visit to the store was not. “There was some type of exchange, for one thing; for another,” says Lesley McSpadden in the documentary. The director says it is a clear suppression of evidence. “They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” said Pollock, who reportedly spent more than two years in Ferguson conducting research for his documentary. “So this shows [the police] intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.” According to the New York Times, Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police, said in an email on March 12 that footage of the earlier encounter had not been released, because it was not relevant to the investigation.

New Jersey

Parents at South Mountain Elementary School got quite a shock when they walked into the school for parent teacher conferences. What they saw was not just the teachers but posters hanging in the hallways advertising slave auctions, reports The Grio. Now school officials have called a community meeting over the incident to discuss the assignment and its implications. The posters caused a storm with parents took to social media to share their displeasure. “Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent,” parent Jamil Karriem wrote on Facebook. “It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history.” The superintendent of the school, John Ramos, stated that anti-bias experts had previously stressed that it’s important for schools to not “skip over the more painful aspects of American history.” He went on to say that, “We need to do a better job of acknowledging the uglier parts of our past, so that children learn the full story.” Ramos says that some parents are supportive of the assignment for examining “a shameful and too-often ignored chapter of American history” while others parents have been “disturbed” that the elementary school asked students to “put themselves in the virtual shoes of people who subjugated others.” The images have been removed from the walls and the district has not yet decided whether or not to include the same lesson next year.

New York

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Herb Moses set bond at $5,000 March 9 for Breonna Turk, the young mother accused of beating an elderly woman in a New York City subway station for criticizing her parenting, the New York Daily News reports. Prosecutors charged Turk, 24, with felony second-degree assault and wanted bail set at $30,000, according to the newspaper. Assistant District Attorney Michael Dinet said Turk pulled her 4-year-old son into an Upper East Side train station elevator while people were trying to exit. He said a 71-year-old woman on the elevator “told the defendant to teach her child to wait when people were exiting the elevator.” That scolding infuriated Turk, who allegedly punched the older woman repeatedly and used the senior’s cane to swing at a bystander who intervened. In Turk’s defense, her attorney Kasia Donohue told the court that the young woman had never been arrested before and surrendered to authorities on Wednesday to face her charges.


African American-owned Maximus Box is the first ever Big and Tall clothing subscription service for men, reports Black News. The idea is one that comes not too soon and its founder, Wes Riddick, says that “Every big and tall man should have the right to feel confident, comfortable and cash savvy.” It’s month-to-month cancel anytime service that launched in recent months out of Texas has now grown nationally and is serving customers from coast to coast. “I had no idea that I was tapping into such a huge market demand, I was simply strapped for time, on a budget and needed to find my size without all of the hassle of returns,” Riddick says. As a first-time entrepreneur and winner of the Pitch Black pitch competition in Austin this winter, this young 29-year-old husband and father of two decided to put his own savings into bootstrapping a tech company that would bring the best quality and convenience to other big and tall men like himself. “When I started the company, we had some initial failures. During our first soft launch, we lost a lot of money, we learned and regrouped and in the fall of 2016, we saw tremendous results,” Riddick says. “The biggest challenge is staying lean, while learning and focusing on a delivering a great experience.” Founders of tech companies who happen to be African American makeup less that 1 percent of the market. However, if venture capitalists are less willing to invest in minority and women headed start-ups, that is ok, according to Riddick. He believes in growing and proving demand for his product in order to gain leverage. “When investors are ready to meet with us, we will make sure we can show the trajectory and expectations for the company and we will have the leverage to walk away, if we need to.”