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Across Black America Week of March 30, 2017



Wyclef Jean was briefly detained and handcuffed in Los Angeles after police mistook him for a robbery suspect, Rolling Stone reports. The incident occurred the night of March 21 after Jean left the studio. It was captured on a video the musician later posted to Twitter. In the clip, Jean stands next to a patrol car with his hands behind his back and says, “L.A., right now, coming from the studio, y’all see the police have handcuffs on me. They just took off my Haitian bandanna. That’s what’s going on right now with Wyclef in L.A. right now. The LAPD have me in cuffs for absolutely nothing.” Sergeant C. Duncan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Jean was detained for six minutes while officers investigated a report that a man and woman had been robbed at gunpoint and beaten near the studio where Jean was working. The victims described the suspect as a Black man in a dark hoodie who fled in a gold or tan Toyota. At about 1:25 a.m., police pulled over a car matching that description. A woman, later identified as Jean’s manager, was driving and the musician sat in the passenger’s seat. Police detained Jean after seeing his red bandanna and contacting the victims, who at that point said that the suspect had also been wearing a red bandanna. Jean was released after six minutes, said Sgt. Duncan, who responded to Jean’s statement that he identified himself, saying, “Just because someone tells me their name I have to verify it through legal means.”


A state official has been suspended without pay after tweeting that Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who is Black, should be “hung from a tree” reports the Orlando Sentinel. He stated that Ayala “should be tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.” “Maybe SHE should get the death penalty” Stan McCullars wrote the comment on Facebook under an Orlando Sentinel story about Ayala’s decision not to seek the death penalty in capital murder cases. Ayala, the first African American state attorney in Florida’s history, was removed by Gov. Rick Scott from the Markeith Loyd murder case on March 17. She filed a motion to stay that decision on March 20. Maitland attorney Jennifer Jacobs said when she saw the original posts, “I was pretty disgusted by it. … but I didn’t know the person who posted it. I looked him up and I saw he was an employee of the Clerk of Courts office. I sent his boss a screen shot and advised him what his employee was posting in the Internet.”  Jacobs said there was “no possible way for him to claim it wasn’t a racially motivated comment. He was essentially asking for a lynch mob.” Ayala’s office has filed a formal complaint with the Seminole courts office about McCullars’ posts, reports the Orlando Weekly.


Georgetown University at one time sold slaves, and one on record is a Black employee’s great-great- great grandmother. She was among some 272 slaves sold by the school to raise money, reports the New York Times. Jeremy Alexander said he had no idea and that when he heard the news, it was very emotional for him. Alexander, an executive assistant in Georgetown’s office of technology commercialization, found out that his paternal great-great-great grandmother, Anna Mahoney Jones, was one of the hundreds of slaves sold by two Jesuit priests at Georgetown to save the school from bankruptcy. “Now I work here—to realize that this is my history, this is my story, blows me away,” Alexander said. “I have been really emotional, as I learned about my ties to the university.” The 45-year-old father of one heard from a woman from Boston, Melissa Kemp, who turned out to be a distant cousin. Kemp was able to go back several generations and introduced Alexander to his connection to Georgetown: Anna Mahoney Jones. She told him that Mahoney Jones was among the 272 slaves sold for about $3.3 million in today’s dollars to help Georgetown survive. They found that Anna Mahoney Jones was born in 1811 and married Arnold Jones in the mid-1820s. Her husband escaped before he could be sold. Mahoney Jones and her two children (ages 6 and 9) were enslaved at the Chatham Plantation in rural Louisiana, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Her name shows up again in the 1870 census as living in New Orleans, where she died four years later.



Although the city of Detroit is experiencing a period of urban revitalization, many residents believe that the city’s economic renaissance has yet to reach the neighborhoods outside of the downtown and midtown areas. Raphael Wright is looking to help change that. Wright, 28, is a local entrepreneur and investor from Detroit. He is the founder of Urban Plug L3C, an organization designed to build wealth within Detroit’s inner city through creating group investing platforms. Wright is looking to take on his biggest venture yet: opening a Black-owned grocery store on Detroit’s east side. “I still see so many people struggling, particularly in the African-American community, so much poverty and no real accumulation of wealth in the inner cities,” Wright told Huffington Post about the city, which is more than 80 percent Black. “It’s a graveyard. We want to introduce group investing to the Black community in the inner city.” Wright and his partner, Theo Easter, decided to take matters into their own hands. “Our goal is to build up the inner city, particularly among our minority population,” Wright said. “But at the same time, we want to tackle social issues inside the community as well.”  One of the social issues they want to tackle is community wellness. Wright was diagnosed as diabetic at the age of 19. “We both had a passion toward food and health. We both decided to help tackle the problem of food deserts in the inner city, so we wanted to create a grocery store,” Wright said. “For one, we wanted to provide high-quality food in the inner city but wanted to also introduce our group investment platform through this venture.” Wright has raised more than $13,000 so far through GoFundMe, but is looking to raise $100,000. To help, go to



Las Vegas was the setting last weekend for the 32nd annual Stellar Awards, honoring Gospel artists and radio. Thousands gathered at the Orleans Hotel for several events designed to spotlight the many achievements of the genre. Things kicked off early March 25 with a breakfast honoring ASCAP and Motown artists and included performances by Tasha Cobb, Brian Courtney Wilson, Vashawn  Mitchell and Gene Moore. Next was the Gospel Radio Awards, and the day culminated with the Stellar Awards, hosted by Anthony Brown and Erica Campbell. Winners included Tamela Mann for artist of the year; Travis Greene song of the year for “Made A Way;” Travis Greene male vocalist of the year; Tamela Mann female vocalist of the year; Bri new artist of the year; and Myron Butler and Levi as group/due of the year. Greene also won for CD of the year for “The Hill.” The awards show was taped and will air on TV One on April 9.

New York

A White man from Maryland, who told police he traveled to New York to kill Black men, turned himself in on March 22, about 24 hours after he fatally stabbed a man he encountered on the street, officials told the Washington Post. Authorities described the suspected attacker as someone who had long harbored feelings of hatred toward Black men before violently acting on them last week. Police said he carried out the attack in a way that intended to draw attention. “The reason he picked New York is because it’s the media capital of the world,” said William Aubry, assistant chief of the New York City Police Department. “And he wanted to make a statement.” New York police said they charged James Harris Jackson, 28, with murder. Police said Jackson encountered 66-year-old Timothy Caughman shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday and stabbed him multiple times. Caughman went to a police precinct for help and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died, police said.

A little more than 24 hours after the attack, Jackson walked into the police substation in Times Square and announced that he was wanted for murder.

North Carolina

Colette Forrest, chair of the Mecklenburg County Black Political Caucus, spoke out at a March 24 press conference at Little Rock AME Zion Church. The Black Political Caucus held a press conference to voice its concerns and opposition to proposed Senate Bill 306 sponsored by Senators Jeff Tarte and Dan Bishop, which proposes to create three judicial districts in the current 26th Judicial District, which is comprised of only Mecklenburg County. The Black Political Caucus is concerned that dividing the District Courts would signify acquiescence to potentially partisan judicial elections and partisan judges, reports the Charlotte Observer. It’s interesting to note that the Washington Post reported on March 26 that former President Barack Obama has organized a group of people, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, to address redistricting across the country.



A federal jury awarded $10.2 million to the family of an Oklahoma Army vet who died after spending days in a Tulsa jail cell with a broken neck. On March 20, jurors sided with the estate of Elliott Williams, whose final moments were captured on surveillance video. The footage, which garnered national attention, showed a paralyzed Williams, lying naked on his back and grasping for food and water that detention officers dropped out of his reach. Jail employees believed Williams, who was African American, was “faking” paralysis despite his pleas for help, and they placed him in a video-monitored cell to catch him moving, according to trial testimony and an internal probe by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. The verdict came after 10 hours of deliberations that began on March 17 and ended March 20. Jurors ordered Tulsa County to pay $10 million and former sheriff Stanley Glanz to pay $250,000 in punitive damages to Williams’s estate. Don Smolen, an attorney for Williams’ estate, had asked jurors for $51 million in compensatory damages. (The surveillance footage of Williams’s death was 51 hours long.) Smolen asked for “$1 million for every hour that Elliott Williams was left suffering in his cell, covered in feces and urine, suffocating as his lungs began to collapse slowly over the course of several days, unable to feed himself, unable to drink, begging for water, and begging for help that never came.”



A memorial for Quanice Hayes, a Black teen killed by police in Portland, brought out hundreds on March 24, to mourned the 17-year-old; thyey took to the streets in protest afterwards. The Root reports that about 200 people filled the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church in northeast Portland for the afternoon service, days after a Multnomah County grand jury decided not to file charges against a Portland police officer who killed Quanice, an alleged suspect in an armed robbery. The day after the grand jury’s decision was announced, Hayes’ mother, Venus Hayes, called for a federal investigation of the circumstances of her son’s death, and said the police officer who shot him was “bloodthirsty” “Quanice was on his knees, when he was shot in the head and chest,” said his mother to NBC local affiliate, KGW. Police said they found a replica gun on the ground beside the teen after Officer Andrew Hearst shot him in front of a northeast Portland home on Feb. 9. Hearst has been involved in two fatal shootings in the past five years. He was one of three officers who fatally shot Merle Hatch, 50, who was diagnosed with a mental illness. He was carrying a broken telephone handset, which he said was a gun. A grand jury found no wrongdoing in that case as well. At the service, Quanice’s cousin, Terrence Hayes, delivered an eight-minute eulogy that fondly remembered “Moose,” and also touched on the relationship between African Americans and police.



Variety reported last week that rap mogul and entrepreneur Jay Z has won a bidding war to take the Trayvon Martin story to the big screen and television. The racially-charged case called national attention to race relations in this country and is credited with being a key factor in the launching of the Black Lives Matter movement. The bidding war surrounded two books written on the case and brought Jay Z together with the Weinstein Co. to produce a series of film and TV projects based on the subject matter that continues to be a hot bed of contention in the country. According to Variety, the indie label and the rap icon won a heated bidding war for the rights to “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.” The African-American high school student was killed by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old mixed race Hispanic man, who was a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community. He claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self defense after the two became involved in a physical altercation. Zimmerman’s acquittal on a second-degree murder charge inspired protests around the country. The plan is to make a six-part docu-series with Jay Z producing as part of a first-look deal he signed with the studio last September. The studio will also develop a narrative feature film. The Weinstein Co. earned critical raves for “Fruitvale Station,” another true story about the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed Black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART transit police officer.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.