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Across Black America week of March 23, 2017.



A new billboard in Phoenix has sparked controversy with its anti-Trump message, reports The Grio. The Nazi-esque sign is located in the 1000 block of Grand Avenue and was designed by artist Karen Fiorito. “I got the opportunity to have a platform to say something, and I took that opportunity. I take full responsibility for it,” Fiorito said. According to the artist, the Limited Liability Corp., which is an organization in Phoenix that supports the arts, gave her the platform. The billboard has an image of Donald Trump in the center foreground with mushroom clouds behind him and Nazi-like dollar signs to either side of him. On the other side of the billboard, there is another message. “Unity” is spelled out in sign language. The artist says there is a lot to the billboard, and it’s up to people to interpret it as they see fit.


Arkansas legislators voted March 17 to separate Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the holiday that celebrates the memory of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Associated Press, the proposal cleared the state House by a vote of 66-11. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is expected to sign the legislation into law, has been a proponent of Senate Bill 519 since it was filed. “The support for a separate holiday to recognize Martin Luther King far exceeded my expectations and speaks well of the General Assembly and our state,” Hutchinson wrote on Twitter. The legislation will move Robert E. Lee Day from the third Monday in January, which it currently shares with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to the second Saturday in October. With Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee both born in January, Arkansas voted to combine the two holidays in 1985, according to the AP. Mississippi and Alabama will be the only remaining states to honor both Lee and King on the same date, after this bill is signed into law. A small town in Mississippi faced outrage in January for not giving Martin Luther King Jr. Day its proper title. The new bill not only separates the two commemorative dates but also requires the state’s Department of Education to create a special curriculum on the fight for civil rights and the Civil War, starting with the 2018-2019 school year.



The NBA has fined Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala $10,000 for his controversial response to coach Steve Kerr’s decision to rest him and teammates Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for the March 11 game against the San Antonio Spurs. “Nope, no clue,” Iguodala said in response to a reporter’s question about his knowledge of Kerr’s decision, which followed the team’s March 10 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I do what master says.” Iguodala also used the N-word repeatedly during his postgame media address. His response drew a hailstorm of criticism over the weekend. The NBA announced Iguodala’s fine on the afternoon of March 13 via an official press release. Following the team’s practice that day in Oakland, Kerr spoke to reporters about the ordeal. He wasn’t talking about me,” Kerr told the Bay Area San Jose Mercury News. “I wasn’t the slightest bit offended … He has a very cryptic sense of humor. The only thing I’d say, there’s certain humorous things you should say in the sanctity of the locker room, and there’s certain humorous things you might want to keep from the media. That was one of them, and he knows that.” Iguodala later retracted his comments and clarified that his remarks were not personally directed at Kerr.


State prosecutors say they found no evidence of a crime in the death of a Black, schizophrenic man who was left in a hot shower for almost two hours, according to news reports. They concluded he died accidentally due to undiagnosed heart disease and did not suffer burn injuries. Darren Rainey was mentally troubled and serving a two-year sentence on cocaine charges. According to a lawyer for the family, Milton Grimes, the family is disappointed and heartbroken” that no charges will be brought against the guards. “This is not justice for Darren, for his family, nor for the mentally ill who have been subject to similar abuse and mistreatment,” Grimes stated. One of the nurses who saw him after he was removed from the shower said that Rainey had burns on 90 percent of his body, and his skin was peeling off from the 180 degree water. The autopsy did not record an exact cause of death and the body was quickly cremated. Despite other inmates claiming they too had been subjected to these hot showers as punishment, the investigation found no evidence that the Dade Correctional Institution tortured inmates this way. Assistant State Attorneys Kathleen Hoague and Johnette Hardiman stated in their 72-page memo that one inmate’s claims that Rainey was calling for help and had been scalded to death were unfounded. According to them, “the evidence fails to show that any correctional officer acted in a reckless disregard of Rainey’s life.”

The boys of “Moonlight” will be getting their moment. Both 13-year-old Alex Hibbert and 12-year-old Jaden Piner are slated to receive keys to the city of Miami at this year’s Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival. The two students from Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens had starring roles in the Oscar- winning film “Moonlight,” with Alex playing young Chiron and Jaden playing Kevin, Chiron’s best friend.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for us to acknowledge what they’ve done at a young age, and tell them how proud we are of them,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III. “Because so often when you hear about young Black kids, people don’t want to tell you the stories of these kids and (the) areas that they excel in,” continues Mayor Gilbert. “We aren’t talking about them most times. Most times we’re talking about young Black boys in a negative context, so anytime we get an opportunity to tell them how extraordinary they are, we will do it. And ‘Jazz In The Gardens’ is the biggest stage that we can offer in the city.”



Shaquille O’Neal has bought new furniture for the family of a 5-year-old Atlanta girl who survived a dog attack that left another child dead. WAGA-TV reports that Syari Sanders returned home this week after being hospitalized since the Jan. 17 attack. Sanders and 6-year-old Logan Braatz were walking to a bus stop when they were attacked by two dogs. Braatz died from his injuries. The dogs’ owner has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. O’Neal met Sanders and her family at an Atlanta furniture store and picked up the tab for new items. The family tells WAGA that the former NBA star and current TNT analyst has been involved with the family since the attack.


Some bigoted parents in Indiana prove that the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the diseased tree, reports The Root. They tried to ruin what should have been a very special moment for five Black and Latino 9-and 10-year-olds after they won a citywide robotics championship in Indianapolis. “Go back to Mexico!” two or three kids and adults screamed at the proud team parents, according to some who were there, proving that Black/Brown excellence just makes some White folks downright nasty. Elijah Goodwin, 10; Angel Herrera-Sanchez, 9; Jose Verastegui, 10; Manuel Mendez, 9; and Devilyn Bolyard, 9, make up the Pleasant Run Elementary PantherBots, a team that incredibly, just a few months ago, knew nothing about robotics. “They were pointing at us and saying that ‘Oh my God, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country,’” said Diocelina Herrera, the mother of PantherBot Angel Herrera-Sanchez. “For the most part, the robotics world is kind of a White world,” said Lisa Hopper, the team’s coach and a Pleasant Run second-grade teacher. “They’re just not used to seeing a team like our kids. And they see us, and they think we’re not going to be competition. Then we’re in first place the whole day, and they can’t take it,” she said. USA Today reports that nearly 35 schools competed in the Feb. 2 robotics challenge. Plainfield High School was the host, but the participating elementary school teams came from more than 20 communities in and around Indianapolis. Three weeks after the incident, the PantherBots won the Create Award-for best robot design and engineering-at the state championships, which qualified them for the Vex IQ World Championship next month in Louisville, Ky. They will compete there with students from all over the world.



Jaylon Sewell decided to dye his hair in the style of Odell Beckham Jr., the wide receiver for the New York Giants, and he was shocked when that fashion decision was met with swift backlash at his school. The 16-year-old, who is a good student and manager of the football team at Neville High School in Monroe, was allegedly barred from attending class because of his hair, according to the New York Daily News. According to a complaint lodged by his family with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, he was discriminated against despite the fact that “White students with dyed hair were allowed to attend class.” What’s more, the complaint alleges that the school district retaliated against Jaylon by “suspending him, attempting to expel him, and barring him from participation on the NHS football team.” They also alleged that Jaylon and 20 other Black students have repeatedly been targeted and harassed for their hairstyles by school administrators who have even gone so far as to say that their hairstyles were “too nappy” in some cases. An investigation into the matter is still ongoing. The Monroe City Schools dress code states, “Hair styles and hair dyed outlandish colors which cause a disruption to the educational process and shall not be allowed.”


A White Michigan government employee was suspended after confessing to taunting a Black coworker with a noose made out of toilet paper and tape, but the Michigan Advocacy Coalition is calling for the employee’s termination and prosecution, reports The Grio. The woman who was the target of the racist taunting, Andrea Brown, had returned early from a shift break at the Juvenile Justice Center to find the tissue paper object, which depicted someone being hanged from a noose. According to the Macomb Daily newspaper, Brown complained to her supervisor, and the department conducted an investigation into the matter. Two months later, Brown received a letter saying that the investigation had concluded. “Based upon this investigation, the County was unable to corroborate a violation of County policy; however an unprofessional exchange did occur,” wrote Service Director Karen Bathanti. But Brown persisted and contacted the coalition, and Greg Murray, the coalition’s executive director, went with her to the sheriff’s department to file a criminal complaint. The FBI got involved, although it’s not clear the extent of its involvement. On March 3, Brown was informed that a county employee had confessed to leaving the noose for her to find. She was also told that the employee was placed on administrative leave, but both Murray and Brown felt that it was not enough. “We have been told that employee has been placed on administrative leave, which is not an appropriate response to a self-confessed hate crime. We find it perplexing and outrageous that the person who committed this heinous hate crime has not yet been fired and charged with a hate crime,” Murray said.


New York

Harry Belafonte’s long and respected personal history as a humanitarian earned him a distinguished honor in New York City on March 15. The 90-year-old singer, actor and activist was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Jefferson Awards Foundation, which identifies itself as the nation’s most prestigious and long-standing organization dedicated to empowering and celebrating public service, reports the Huffington Post. Belafonte proudly accepted his honor and made a plea for us all to keep fighting for human rights. “It’s a pleasure to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jefferson Awards Foundation,” Belafonte said in a statement. “Throughout my life, I’ve been committed to social change and while this is a celebration of the progress we’ve made, there is still work to be done in the fight for human rights and racial unity,” Belafonte added. The entertainer’s activism spans six decades, during which he worked with and fought alongside some of the leading figures of the civil rights movement. As an actor and singer, he used his platform to speak out about the need for social justice and has been dedicated to this cause throughout much of his career.

In his speech, Belafonte, who founded a nonprofit social justice organization called the Sankofa Justice and Equity Fund, commended historical figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela for leading lives of service, and called on others to continue their fight against injustice.

North Carolina

Community leaders and customers of a west Charlotte beauty supply store showed at the store last week, calling for a boycott of the establishment after cell phone video showed the owner, an Asian man, kicking and choking an African American woman. Sung Ho Lim is the owner of Missha Beauty. He said the incident all started when the woman in the video, who has not been identified, was caught stealing. In the video, you can hear the woman tell Lim, “Check my bag. I don’t have anything.” Then the two are seen shoving each other, at which point Lim said, “You hit me.” Moments later, Lim kicks the woman, knocks her to the ground and puts her in a choke hold. WBTV showed Lim the video, and he confirmed it is him, but he also said the part when she stole an item is not captured by this video. “This is my fault,” Lim said. “I have to take the whole video and give it to the police.” Lim said he is going to provide the security footage in his store to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. According to the police report that Lim filed for strong armed robbery, he says the woman stole eyelashes from the store. Lim has not been charged, and police say the woman “has not been identified or arrested.” Meanwhile, community leaders and customers who showed at Missha Beauty said they are not satisfied with Lim’s defense. They said even if the woman stole something, he should not have attacked her like he did. “When he was choking her, he was almost choking her to death. She was gasping for breath, and he was continually choking her,” said Teresa Mosely. Mosely said she buys from Missha Beauty three times a week, but won’t anymore after seeing the video. Lim met with the protesters and apologized.