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Across Black America week of April 20, 2017



The Sacramento Police Department on April 11 announced a formal investigation into the actions of one of their officers who was seen slamming a Black man to the ground and beating him—all sparked by an alleged case of jaywalking. The video, released April 10, has sparked national outrage. It shows the officer confronting the man, identified as Nandi Cain Jr. as he crossed an intersection and attempting to talk to him. But the situation quickly escalates. After some words are exchanged while Cain is standing in the street, the officer then violently throws Cain to the ground and begins to punch him in the head. The events leading up to the incident were not captured by the camera, and it is not possible to hear the conversation between Cain and the officer before the incident occurred. Bystander Naomi Montaie, who took the video and posted it on Facebook, can be heard screaming, “Oh my God! Why’d you take him down like that? No! That was wrong!” Montaie filmed the five-minute-long video as the officer called for back-up. Six additional officers arrived to assist in Cain’s arrest. In a statement, the Sacramento Police Department said the officer originally “attempted to detain a pedestrian for allegedly unlawfully crossing the street.” Cain then “questioned the officer’s validity to stop him, at which time a violent encounter occurred between the officer and the pedestrian,” the statement continues. “For an unknown reason, the officer threw the pedestrian to the ground and began striking him in the face with his hand multiple times,” the SPD statement said. Cain was initially charged with resisting arrest, but it was later dropped and he was released, officials said


A reported $500,000 statue of Tupac Shakur is slated to be erected in Georgia this September in honor of the 21st anniversary of the rapper’s death, reports Billboard. The statue was originally erected in Stone Mountain, which was home to a performing arts center supported through the Shakur Family Foundation. The center’s mission was to provide opportunities for young people through the arts, and it offered programs such as drama, dance, and creative writing classes. The center was named in honor of the late American rap artist and founded by his mother Afeni Shakur. The center was closed in 2015 and was sold to retired real estate investor, Jim Burnett. The original statue of the West Coast lyricist was taken down. Burnett has reportedly hired artist Nijel Binns (who has previously created statues of Michael Jackson, Shirley Temple and the Mother of Humanity statue permanently installed at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee in Los Angeles) to helm the project. Binns also took to his Facebook page to recognize the statue. This time around, he will help immortalize Shakur with a seven-foot bronze statue that will weigh approximately 1,000 pounds. Burnett is looking to unveil the statue in Septemberm but a location has yet to be announced.


Robbery was the motive that led to the killing of a criminal court judge outside his Chicago home, police said last week, according to the Associated Press. Joshua Smith, 37, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and obstruction in the shooting death of Associate Cook County Circuit Judge Raymond Myles, said Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples. A 52-year-old woman that the judge knew also was shot in the incident early April 10 on the city’s South Side. She survived. Her name has not been released because police say she is a witness in the killing. Staples said that Smith did not act alone and that the investigation is ongoing. Staples said the gun in the shooting was also used in an armed robbery in January that left a victim wounded. Video cameras on Myles’ home and others in the area helped police identify the car used by the suspects in the shooting and its license plate, Staples said. When police found the vehicle, it had a different license plate than the one seen in the videos, said Staples adding that police don’t think the car owner took part in the crime. Police have said the woman that Myles knew had already been shot and that Myles exchanged words with the attacker and then was shot as well. Smith was convicted of armed robbery in 2003 and sentenced to six years in prison, according to authorities. The Chicago Sun-Times, citing court records, reported that Smith appeared before Myles in 2001 on a charge of failing to have a title for a vehicle and the case was dismissed.


DeAnn, a Black feminist who is graduating from Eastern Michigan University, posted a picture of her decorated graduation cap. On one side of the cap is an image of a young Black woman twerking as she holds her diploma high under the words “educated hoe.” On the other side is a stack of books, including one with the feminist hashtags #SayHerName and #YouOKSis. The bottom left shows a “Feminist Manifesto”sign and quote from poet Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” In speaking to The Huffington Post, DeAnn explained that the purpose of her decorated cap was to show that women can be liberated and sexy as well as intelligent at the same time. “We don’t have to choose between twerking at the club at a girls night with our friends and graduating with honors, we can do both. We can do whatever brings us joy, when the world tries so hard to tell us that we aren’t worth it,” DeAnn said. “Sex workers, ‘ghetto’ girls, loud women, women who didn’t attend college, single mothers, teen mothers, strippers, and everything in between deserve liberation and protection. We are not a monolith and there is not only one right way to be a Black ‘Queen.’” DeAnn continued, “Our worth does not rest in between our thighs, and anybody who tries to tell us otherwise is completely wrong,” she added. “We are humans with emotions, dreams, failures, and pain, all of which is valid regardless of if we are fully clothed working in a Fortune 500 company or dancing to our favorite song at the club. We are important, we matter and we exist for our own enjoyment and not the approval of men or society.”

New York

A Buffalo deli worker was fired from her job, after allegedly calling a customer a monkey and drawing a monkey on his sandwich wrapper, reports The Grio. Cynthia Passanisi, who said that she found out she had been fired after watching the news, said that she did not call the man a monkey and that she was only trying to draw a smiley face on the wrapper. “That was a smiley face, it was not a monkey,” Passanisi told WKBW. “That’s how I draw mine … I’m sorry I’m not an artist.” Passanisi added that there were comments made about a ‘gorilla,’ but they were not made by her. “When I was in front of the store and he was at the register, I was standing with Christian and he turned around and said he was a gorilla. I didn’t say that, I said “that’s not nice and I’m not racist,” she said. But John Washington, a civil rights activist with the organization PUSH Buffalo, maintains that she did, in fact, call him a monkey. “Well I think she’s lying. She did call me a monkey,” said Washington. “There’s multiple people who have acknowledged that she did that multiple times.” He added, “I think it’s clear what she drew.” WGRZ reported that the store owner, Lisa Guercio, has since apologized to Washington, saying, “John, we would like to apologize to you in person. From my heart to yours, I’m sorry, it was not right.”

North Carolina

Gunpowder and Sky Distribution and Kartemquin Films are teaming up for the theatrical and digital release of Margaret Byrne’s documentary “Raising Bertie,” reported Variety last week. “Raising Bertie” is a six-year portrait of three African American boys growing into adulthood in rural Bertie County in eastern North Carolina, and explores the complex relationships between generational poverty, educational inequity and race. The film follows Reginald “Junior” Askew, David “Bud” Perry, and Davonte “Dada” Harrell through disappointments, heartbreak and triumphs. Byrne initially self-financed the project, and eventually received funding from various sources including the MacArthur and the Ford foundations as well as the Southern Documentary Fund. The film premiered last year at the Full Frame Documentary Festival with  J. Cole as the executive producer. “Raising Bertie” opens June 16 in North Carolina and other locations. Gunpowder and Sky is releasing a new trailer, which features one of the leads declaring that he does not want to work on a farm for the rest of his life. The trailer starts with a speech by Barack Obama who says: “At the end of the day, where you come from, how much money you have—there is no excuse for not trying.”

A group of eighth-grade students wants the Wake County school board to name a future school after a local African-American family who fought for integration, reports the News Observer in Raliegh. Twelve students at the Exploris School, a charter school in Raleigh, wrote a letter in April asking Wake to “give full reparations” to the Holt family by naming a school after them. The students also addressed the school board during a meeting this month. “You can’t change the past, but you can right the wrongs,” Daniel Jordan, an eighth-grade student at Exploris, said in a recent interview. The Holt family “went through hell, basically, for something that is handed to people today for free,” said Lev Cohen, also an eighth-grade student. “That’s just a right today. In 1956, Joe Holt Sr. and Elwyna Holt became the first Black family to apply to an all-White Raleigh school, when they wanted their son, Joe Holt Jr., to attend Daniels Junior High, now Daniels Middle School. The application was denied, and Holt Jr. enrolled at Ligon High School, which served Black students. Holt Jr.’s parents requested a transfer the following year to Broughton High, another all-White school, but were refused. The family launched the first legal battle to desegregate Raleigh public schools, when they sued the Raleigh City School Board to allow their son to attend Broughton. After the family filed the lawsuit, Joe Holt Sr. lost his job and the family received bomb threats. At one point, the family sent Holt Jr. to stay with relatives in eastern North Carolina to keep him safe. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case several months before Holt Jr. graduated from Ligon in 1960.


Looking to encourage Philadelphia residents to shop at African-American-owned stores, a local organization unveiled a new discount program to support Black communities, reports the Philly Voice. The Philadelphia Community of Leaders, a group that represents African-American civic leaders and business owners in the city, launched the “iBuyBlack” discount card April 11 at a press conference inside city hall. The effort is aimed at spurring Black residents to spend money in their community. “Economists say the average dollar earned by Blacks stays in our community for six hours,” the iBuyBlack website reads. “Compare that to the White community. Dollars circulate in the White community for 17 days!” The idea for th campaign was developed by a broad coalition of local leaders as a way to create jobs, build community pride and reduce crime, the group said. The card costs $10 and will give holders access to discounts of up to 15 percent at participating businesses. Deals are currently available from nearly 80 companies, which include restaurants, construction firms, child care services and more. The group’s goal is to recruit more than 10,000 people to purchase the card and recruit more businesses to participate.


Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant spoke out on his Facebook page last week about Black culture. He encouraged others in the Black community to create their own realities and focus on individual accountability, sparking a racial relations debate with his fans, reports The Blaze. “First and foremost, I would like to say I do a great job of minding my own business but it’s pressing on my heart to share my thoughts about White Americans and Black Americans (racism),” Bryant began in his first of several posts on the matter. “I saw a person quote Charles Barkley when he said, ‘We as Black people, we’re never going to be successful not because (of) White people but because of other Black people.’ I hate to admit it, but I understand that quote.” Bryant continued, addressing his own personal run-ins with racism and indicating it was still no excuse for him to extend ill feelings toward others who were of the same race as those who targeted him. “I’ve been racial [sic] profiled on numerous occasions but not once has it influenced an ill feeling inside me about anyone outside of that issue,” Bryant said. “REAL SLAVERY is different from what’s going on in our world now … we all (every ethnicity) have the opportunity to lead by EXAMPLE. Instead of making videos about the history of racism that get applause or people with influence merely doing things to post for social media we should focus on individual accountability to be better as a whole,” he continued. Bryant mentioned an old acquaintance he ran into who told him that seeing Bryant’s success inspired him to do better things with his life. Homing in on members of the Black community who criticize members of their own race, Bryant questioned the legitimacy of their claims. “Real question [sic] what is wrong with being sophisticated and Black? Why do we associate those who choose the straight and narrow as not being ‘Black enough?’ Why was it that I was one of the first examples of success to my friend,” Bryant asked. “We focus hard on fighting the realities that exist instead of creating our own reality. The ones who came before us (Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X …) paved a new path for us to follow. The struggles and hurt they endured created new life for us today. It is not our job to carry the burden but it is our job to lead by example,” he concluded.


A group of Black Tacoma firefighters said they won’t allow department leaders to blame minority applicants and the city’s hiring policy for what happened with Ramsey Mueller, reports the News Tribune. The son of a deputy chief and a probationary firefighter, Mueller died of a heroin overdose days after showing up late to work and nearly hitting another vehicle while driving a firetruck. At a recent City Council meeting, Battalion Chief Brian Hardy read a letter sent in February to former City Manager T.C. Broadnax and Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Hardy said he was speaking on behalf of the Tacoma Black Professional Firefighters. Nepotism, the letter read, was to blame for the hiring of Mueller, who had previous drug-related arrests and hospitalizations when hired by the fire department as a recruit in 2015. “(the) Tacoma Black Professional Firefighters Organization is deeply disturbed by the manipulation of the Tacoma Fire Department’s hiring process to benefit an immediate family member of the deputy chief … and believe nepotism’ was involved, the letter stated. “We will not allow the Tacoma Fire Department chief and the deputy chief of administration … to place blame on minority applicants, candidates and new hires and the ban the box policy that was recently implemented.” Interim city manager Elizabeth Pauli said that the city backs its hiring policies and wants to create more equity in hiring for city jobs. When asked in December by The News Tribune about Mueller’s hiring, fire department leaders denied nepotism played a role. Deputy Fire Chief Tory Green, the highest ranking minority member of the fire department’s leadership team, was in charge of hiring at the time of Mueller’s application.


Last month, the 32nd annual Stellar Awards taped in Las Vegas and began airing April 9; it can be seen in various markets well into May. The gospel awards founder Don Jackson has even bigger news—he is launching Stellar TV, a Black-owned TV network with programming aimed at lovers of gospel music and entertainment.  According to Jackson, founder and chairman of Central City Productions, the new network will launch later this year. “I am especially excited about the announcement we will be making at this year’s show (about) our Stellar TV cable network,” he told Billboard. The channel will be dedicated to broadcasting gospel music entertainment, and faith-based programming. Although the Stellar Awards ceremony has come a long way since 1970 and is now known as “the Grammys of gospel,” Jackson admits he still has difficulty convincing major broadcast stations to air the show. But that hasn’t stopped him from finding smart ways to attract more people. “This year, we purposely aired [the awards] over Easter weekend, the biggest faith-based holiday in the country to attract an even larger audience,” the visionary leader and entrepreneur said. Adding a new channel could be the most innovative way to give artists another useful outlet to promote their music and share inspiration with a broader audience base.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.