A Black judge has refused to recuse himself from a case over a White police officer’s shooting of a Black man, accusing his defense lawyers of wrongly injecting race into the case, reports the Independent. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin ruled after a contentious hearing in which the defense for police officer Aaron Cody Smith argued the judge should give up the case because of a Facebook post the judge made before he was assigned the trial. In the post, the judge complained about being stopped by police, because he was he was Black. Mr Griffin said he lives “in the hood” and “can’t take this Black skin off.” He added, “It comes with the territory.” Defense attorney Roianne Conner argued she wasn’t claiming that Mr Griffin was biased, only that judicial ethics rules require judges to avoid even “appearances of impropriety.” Griffin didn’t buy the arguments, saying: “It troubles me because y’all put race in it.” Smith, 24, is charged with murdering Greg Gunn, 58, on Feb 25, 2016. Friends said Gunn was walking home from a weekly card game and was shot next door to the house he shared with his mother. The defense has said Smith stopped Gunn because he thought he was acting suspiciously, and that he fought with the officer before the shooting. The trial has not yet been scheduled.
Former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young was among the honorees today (May 25) at the 2017 Celestial Awards of Excellence at the Alex Theatre of Performing Arts and Entertainment in Los Angeles. The awards were created to acknowledge the accomplishments of people of note who are considered masters of their professions and that have made outstanding contributions to society. Actor Oba Babatunde hosted the awards. Young received the Civil Rights Icon Award, with Louis Gossett receiving the Celestial Lifetime Achievement Award. Other honorees include Myrlie Evers-Williams, Edwin Moses, Marla Gibbs, Solonge Warner (World Chamber of Commerce), Bob Beamon, Annie Nelson, Dr. Tywaun Tillman, Anita DeFranz, Art Evans, Dr. Williams Charles Atkins and Conrad O. Johnson.
District of Columbia
“The Carl Nelson Show” radio program and Rock Newman’s Gibraltar Promotions have teamed up to present Power Talk 4, June 23-24 at Metro AME Church on M Street. The lecture series has attracted a who’s who of African-American political thinkers over the years, ranging from Dr. Julius Garvey (son of Black nationalist, Marcus Garvey) to Professor Griff (of the iconic rap group Public Enemy). Dick Gregory will be honored with the Dr. Frances Cress Welsing Freedom Fighter Award at this year’s event. The award is named after the late Afro-centric psychiatrist and author of “The Isis Papers,” who was honored at the second annual convocation on June 20, 2015. The Power Talk lecture series launched in June 2014 with noted speakers offering presentations with overviews of issues affecting African Americans and providing specific instructions to address the problems. The goal was and is to offer solution-oriented ideas to the series participants. Ultimately, the goal of Power Talk is to transform powerful talk into powerful action that will empower those in attendance. The lineup of speakers includes: Dr. Patricia Newton, a noted sexologist; David Banner, music producer/activist; Dr. Claud Anderson, an economist; Dr. Ronoko Rashidi, a historian; Dr. Ray Winbush, research professor at Morgan State University; Tony Browder, a cultural historian; Dr. Leonard Jeffries, professor at City College of New York; Dr. Rosalind Jeffries, an art historian; Dr. James Small, a Pan-African scholar; Jefferi Lee, a television executive; and Dr. Umar Johnson, an Afro-Centric psychologist. More information at www.powertalkseries.com.
Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker is making a $1 million deposit in a Black-owned bank in Chicago, taking a page from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s playbook, reports the Chicago Tribune. The issue led to back-and-forth attacks from the two campaigns centered on failures of financial institutions Rauner and the Pritzker family have been involved with in their careers. Pritzker’s planned deposit, like Rauner’s three years ago in a South Side credit union, carries the goal of generating support from Black voters. Pritzker’s campaign tried to draw a distinction between the two men’s actions: the Democrat’s money pledge was only announced on a Chicago radio show, while Rauner’s visit to the credit union was a major campaign event. Appearing on WVON 1690-AM last week, Pritzker was asked by a caller named “Bob” if he could do what Rauner did and “make a commitment to put $1 million of the money in a Black bank so we can have loans and hire people?” Pritzker, a billionaire investor and entrepreneur, responded: “As a matter of fact I have made a commitment to do that, and we met with a number of African-American faith leaders who were very encouraging about that and felt like that’s a very important way for us to create employment in the African-American community, so that’s something I’ve already done.” The money is going to Illinois Service Federal Savings in Bronzeville, the Pritzker campaign confirmed May 19. When Rauner campaigned in July 2014 for the governor’s office, the wealthy former equity investor attended a South Side meeting of the group Black Wall Street Chicago, where he pledged to deposit $1 million in a Black-owned institution. Later, Rauner showed up at the South Side Community Federal Credit Union at 54th and Wentworth avenues, scaling back his deposit to $800,000 and giving another $200,000 as a grant. That was because the credit union couldn’t generate enough revenue to pay Rauner the interest due on a $1 million deposit.
First the student government at Western Kentucky University (WKU) demanded that Black students be given free tuition to make up for historical wrongs such as slavery and segregation. Now the faculty government at the academic institution are implicitly supporting that demand by insisting the university create a fund to pay education expenses for Black students and other “underrepresented groups,” the Daily Caller reports. The student government resolution insisted that reparations for historical racism be provided “in the form of full and free access for all Black people.” Last week, the facility decided to “stand in solidarity” with the students and back the resolution. According to the Bowling Green Daily News, 30 faculty members voted in favor of the resolution, three against and three abstained—apparently following “30 minutes of contentious debate.”
Following the original student government resolution and a wave of national media coverage that featured on-air interviews with students pushing for the free tuition, outgoing WKU president Gary Ransdell decided to intervene in the controversy, indicating that the university would not be adopting the students’ demands but would direct resources, energy and effort toward those methods that are responsible, practical and proven to achieve student success, with a particular focus on underrepresented minorities, low-income and first generation college students.” The faculty now wants new president Timothy Caboni to commit to that policy by funding the educational of Black students and others deemed worthy of subsidized or free education. The faculty members also say Caboni needs to address “the legacy of discrimination in Kentucky and in America that created ongoing wealth disparities that negatively impact or campus community.”
Celebrities and fans poured into Las Vegas last weekend for the Billboard Music Awards. Big winners of the night included Drake and Beyoncé. Drake took home a total of 13 awards, a new record. Beyoncé received five. Since she is close to giving birth to twins, she was not in attendance. Ludacris hosted with Vanessa Hudgins. The show also featured Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, John Legend, DJ Khaled, Cher, Celine Dion, Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson’s son, Prince Michael, among others.
A historic North Carolina Black club, which has been a landmark, may reopen by the end of the year, the club’s owner says, according to the Associated Press and the Charlotte Observer. Owner Carla Cunningham, a Democratic state lawmaker, said she plans to restore Charlotte’s historic Excelsior Club as an event venue. “I would like to walk in there and say, ‘Wow, look at this place!” Cunningham said. Earlier this year, Cunningham began foreclosure proceedings on James Ferguson, a prominent civil rights attorney who bought the club from her husband Pete in 2006. The club closed last June for renovations, but financial problems had already begun to surface. Cunningham said that in 2014 she reduced monthly mortgage payments to Ferguson’s corporate entity, HKL, from around $6,000 a month to $4,000 but even then payments were sometimes late. In the last year, the building had fallen into disrepair. In February 2016, city inspectors found an extensive list of code violations, including a falling ceiling, unsafe wiring and structural problems. The club had faced civil penalties of $12,800. HKL still faces federal tax obligations of more than $166,000, according to Cunningham’s attorney. The Excelsior opened in 1944 at a time when Blacks had little access to other social clubs. It became a magnet. Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong played the Excelsior. Presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore took their respective campaigns there. It’s also where excited patrons celebrated the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first Black president. The Excelsior is also in the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a local landmark in the mid-1980s, when it was under the ownership of Ken Koontz and a partner.
A jury on May 17 acquitted of first-degree manslaughter a White Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year when she killed an unarmed Black man with his hands held above his head reported ABC News. Family and friends of Terence Crutcher burst into tears and reacted with outrage, after jurors found Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty in the Sept. 16 shooting. “Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” Crutcher’s father, Rev. Joey Crutcher, said after the verdict was announced. A lawyer for Shelby said the officer was “elated” that the jury found her not guilty. “She’s ready to get back to her life,” Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray said. Shelby looked stone-faced when the verdict was read, but Crutcher’s family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom sobbing and wailing. At least four of the 12 jurors were crying as they left the courtroom and did not look at either the family of Crutcher or Shelby. The jury comprised eight women and four men and included three AfricanAmericans. Demonstrators gathered in a plaza outside the courthouse that evening in peaceful protest at the verdict. They chanted: “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police.” Marq Lewis, organizer of the local civil rights group We The People Oklahoma, said the verdict was a blow to Tulsa’s Black community. “When is it going to stop—just officer-related shootings? When will the police change policy,” he said.
Two genius brothers, Carson and Cannan Huey-You, have simultaneously graduated from high school and college, reports BlackNews.com. Carson, who is just 14 years old, just graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in physics. He was the youngest graduate in the school’s history. Cannan, who is just 11 years old, just graduated from high school and will start studying at TCU in the fall, majoring in astrophysics and engineering. The two are not just brothers, but also best friends and study partners. Their mom, Claretta Kimp, told the Washington Post: “They are just normal little boys who do normal little boy things.” At such young ages, they have accomplished a lot academically, and their goals are far different from what most kids their age are thinking about. “Yes, they’re smart,” their mom said, “but that’s just a small part of who they are.” Their mom says that things really hit her when Carson was just 3 years old, and told her outright: “I really want to learn calculus.” She says that she went out and bought him a calculus book, and he was able to solve the problems. Cannan was soon enrolled in the same private high school that Carson attended. But again because of his age, he needed to be protected and supervised differently, so he was allowed to mostly work remotely from the TCU campus alongside his brother. Carson says he wants to get a Ph.D., and Cannan is already planning to be an astronaut.
Fox News on May 19 announced that it had fired “The Five” co-host Bob Beckel for a remark he made to an employee of color. “Bob Beckel was terminated for making an insensitive remark to an African-American employee,” a network spokesperson said in a short statement. It wasn’t immediately clear who would replace Beckel on “The Five” and Fox News did not provide details on the incident that led to his firing. Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen, lawyers handling a growing racial discrimination lawsuit filed by current and former Fox employees, said in a joint statement that Beckel told one of their clients, a Black IT worker, that he was leaving the office while the employee serviced his computer because the employee is Black. When the IT worker filed a complaint, Beckel attempted to intimidate him to withdraw it, Wigdor and Christensen said. “As with our other 22 clients, we intend on holding 21st Century Fox accountable for these actions and will be filing multiple other complaints in other matters next week,” Wigdor and Christensen said.