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Across Black America week of June 1, 2017.



A new bill signed into law May 25 by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) protects Confederate monuments in the state, even as other states have started to do away with them, reports the Huffington Post. The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 disallows removing or renaming any memorial streets or buildings on public property that have been in place for 40 or more years. Those monuments include a piece dedicated to Confederate soldiers in Birmingham’s Linn Park, named after Confederate captain Charles Linn; an obelisk for a fallen Confederate in Anniston; and the Alabama Confederate Monument, which sits on the grounds of the state Capitol in downtown Montgomery. State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), who first proposed the bill, praised the governor for signing it into law. “I appreciate Gov. Ivey standing up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history,” Allen said. The Southern Poverty Law Center disagrees: “These racist symbols have no place on government property, where they counter our nation’s core principle to ensure liberty and justice for all,” said Rhonda Brownstein, legal director for the SPLC. “Other states and municipalities are removing these monuments from public property and placing them in museums, where people can learn the full history of slavery, the Civil War and the Confederacy. That’s where they belong.”


One Chicago official is speaking out against “racist” flyers circulating around the city that are urging Black residents to report undocumented Latino immigrants to authorities, report NewsOne. The flyer says that “Sanctuary city policies endanger the lively hood[sic] of every American [sic], while violating federal law and destroying the Black community.” The flyer claims there will be a reward of $3,000 to $10,000 “per illegal reported” and asks that people “help Atty. General Jeff Sessions help U.S. Black people.” The “flyer claims that Latino immigrants are taking jobs away from African-American Chicagoans,” said 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez. “Don’t fall for this phony argument.” Information about the flyers is said to be spreading after Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed an order May 22 that sanctuary cities will lose Justice Department and Homeland Security grants, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The Springfield Black Chamber Of Commerce backs the concept of a downtown casino, though the group acknowledges odds are against the proposal in the short run, reports the State Journal Reporter. Chamber president and CEO Dominic Watson said last week the group planned to provide a letter of support to Springfield developer Chris Stone, who has been pitching the idea of a casino to state and local elected officials. Stone himself acknowledges a casino is a long shot, though Statehouse watchers know stranger things have happened in the frantic, closing days of a legislative session. Stone already is involved in the gaming industry as owner of Lucy’s Place video-gambling parlors. “We know it’s in the early stages, but we think it’s a great idea for Springfield,” Watson said. The chamber has approximately 30 member businesses, he said, with young professionals also involved. Watson said support for a casino is based primarily on the potential economic benefits, including jobs, but that tax revenue also could be used to support a variety of educational and social service programs, as well as to rebuild the city infrastructure. Watson said the social costs of a casino were considered in the endorsement decision, including that low-income residents can least afford gambling and the need to support programs for gambling addiction. “We definitely discussed that,” Watson said. “If everyone agreed to allocate jobs to minorities, women, disabled individuals and veterans, it would offset some of those challenges.”



One of the smallest historically Black colleges in the U.S. boasts a huge accomplishment: pound for pound, tiny Dillard University in New Orleans graduates more physics majors – and, notably, more female physics majors – than far bigger schools with more resources, reports With an enrollment of 1,200, Dillard ranks second in the country in Black physics undergrads. The point was punctuated at Dillard’s recent commencement exercises, which featured a keynote address from actress and singer Janelle Monae, one of the stars of “Hidden Figures.” “To see that we have this significant number of women representing (science and math) in the way that they are is a blessing to America and our future,” Monae told the Associated Press in an interview before the May 13 graduation. “To have physicists coming out of New Orleans who are African-American women … that’s a huge deal.” Dillard President Walter Kimbrough is one of the biggest champions of the school’s physics program. “I’d never met a Black female getting an undergraduate degree in physics in my life until I got to Dillard,” Kimbrough said. “It broadens the narrative of what Black women do.”


The young man stabbed and killed in a random attack on the University of Maryland campus last month “could make friends no matter what group he was around,” his father remembered, reports News 4. Richard Collins III was a competitor and athlete. “He loved lacrosse and soccer. He was a runner,” said his father, Richard Collins Jr. Collins had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, and “he prided himself on his time and in his ROTC unit on being the top runner in his PTs,” remembered his father. “He even won a certificate for being the best.” He was just competitive at heart, and had a loving and giving heart.” Added Collins, “He would go out of his way, sometimes to my chagrin, to try and help others. But you want to try to encourage that in your children.” Richard Collins III, 23, died three days before he was supposed to graduate from historically Black Bowie State University. Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, was charged with murder and assault for the attack that University of Maryland police Chief David Mitchell called “totally unprovoked.”


Mississippi is violating the federal law that enabled the state to rejoin the union after the Civil War, a civil rights group alleged last week in a lawsuit over school funding, reports CBS News. The lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four African-American mothers with children in public elementary schools asks a federal judge to force the state’s leaders to comply with the 1870 law, which says Mississippi must never deprive any citizen of the “school rights and privileges” described in its 1868 constitution. That law still obligates Mississippi to provide a “uniform system of free public schools” for all children, the SPLC said. Instead, Mississippi has repeatedly watered down education protections in its first post-Civil War constitution ever since, as part of what the lawsuit calls a White supremacist effort to prevent the education of Blacks. “From 1890 until the present day, Mississippi repeatedly has amended its education clause and has used those amendments to systematically and deliberately deprive African Americans of the education rights guaranteed to all Mississippi schoolchildren by the 1868 Constitution,” the suit states. The suit names as defendants Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, all Republican elected officials. It also names state school Superintendent Carey Wright and the nine appointed members of the state Board of Education.

New Mexico

One of New Mexico’s many calling cards, apart from green chili and hot air balloons, is its diversity. It’s one of only four states with a non-Hispanic White population of less than 50 percent. But the history of the Black community in New Mexico is still largely untold. A new exhibit at the African American Performing Arts Center aims to change that, reports the Albuquerque Journal. Annette Caine, executive director of the African American Performing Arts Center, said the exhibit—African Heritage From Benin to Juneteenth—will have a local touch as well. “We have added the Black artists guild, and they have their work that is also combined,” she said. “That is why we call it From Benin to Juneteenth, because it allows them to (contribute) their work, and these are all African-American artists.” The artists from the guild are all local. The exhibit explores the history of the Black community, its origins and the path African-Americans took to get to the U.S. It also displays artifacts contributed by the African American Artists Guild, such as pottery and quilts, whose creation is inspired by that heritage and history. That history includes the story of Blackdom, a small town near Roswell that was the first African-American community in the New Mexico Territory, and Cathay Williams, a Black woman who made herself resemble a man to serve in the military in the 1800s.

North Carolina

African-American students say they matriculated to Duke Divinity School expecting to enhance their calling with top-notch theological training at a prestigious program. But instead, they say, they entered a racial nightmare seemingly from another era, with students being called the N-word and other slurs in class, consistently receiving lower grades than their White colleagues, reports NPR. The racial animus and suspicions of unequal treatment have led to numerous protests on the Durham campus over the past year and created a tense school environment, where students of color feel they are targeted by other students and faculty for speaking out, according to interviews with current and former students. “One of my classmates was sitting in a class, and she texted me and asked me to come to her class because a student was in her class saying, ‘N like you come here and think that you can just change everything. Why don’t you just learn what Jesus is really about?’” said Amber Burgin, president of the Black Seminarians Union, who is in her third year at Duke Divinity. Carl Kenny, a prominent African-American minister and journalist who graduated from Duke Divinity in 1993, said the tense racial atmosphere at the school is a byproduct of changes that have occurred in recent years as the school has increasingly come under the influence of the conservative white evangelical community inside the United Methodist Church.


Drug dealers may be mixing cocaine with fentanyl to increase the prevalence of opioid addiction in the Black community, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson told a U.S. Senate subcommittee May 25, reports In recent years, fentanyl was largely linked to deaths involving White people in suburban communities in the Cleveland area. However, data released May 24 shows that within the past year, the drug has made inroads within the Black community. Fentanyl contributed to the deaths of 58 Black people last year in Cuyahoga County, up from 25 in 2015. Just five Black people died from fentanyl use in 2014, statistics show. The rise is likely due to the fact that drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with cocaine, Gilson said. The mixture could result in a high number of Black persons becoming addicted to opioids and using heroin and fentanyl, he said. “Cocaine had been the only drug that victims were predominately African American,” Gilson told the subcommittee. “The covert introduction of fentanyl into the cocaine supply has caused a rapid rise in fatalities and in 2017, the rate of African American fentanyl related deaths has doubled from 2016.” Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, and Delaware Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat, are hosting the public hearing in front of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.



Conflicting accounts have emerged after the winner of the 2016 Miss Black Texas pageant said she was arrested May 20 and spent the night in jail after refusing to apologize to the Commerce police chief following a driving dispute, reports Carmen Ponder, a 23-year-old pre-law student at Texas A&M University-Commerce, originally believed the man involved in the “road rage” incident was Chief Kerry Crews, but she now acknowledges that it might be a case of mistaken identity, her attorney said last Friday. City officials said that Crews has been placed on routine paid administrative leave while a third party investigation is conducted by Fort Worth law firm Lynn Ross & Gannaway. A release says that Crews had been shopping at Wal-Mart when he became involved after two motorists got into a dispute in the parking lot. One motorist “failed to comply with [Crews’] requests.” That person was subsequently arrested for “evading arrest or detention.” But Ponder gave a different account in a statement she shared May 23 on Twitter. She said she was driving to a Wal-Mart in Commerce when a black truck that was driving erratically cut her off. After watching the truck drift in and out of the lane and make several abrupt stops, she said, she thought it might be a drunken driver, so she signaled and went around the truck before turning into the store’s parking lot. As she was about to head into the store, the truck pulled up next to her. The man got out and started to yell profanities, Ponder said.  She said he yelled that he was teaching his 14-year-old daughter how to drive and that she shouldn’t have driven around them. Ponder said she told him it was illegal for a 14-year-old to be driving, and she proceeded to walk toward the store when she heard the man say, “Oh whatever, you Black [expletive].” When she came back out of the store, she said, she was approached by an officer in plain clothes who showed his badge and yelled at her, saying that the man she had upset was his chief and that she had better apologize. Ponder said she declined and started to walk to her car when the officer grabbed her arm and told her she was being detained. She then used her cellphone to call 911. Other officers arrived and were told by the officer in plain clothes that she had been evading arrest. She said she was then handcuffed and taken into custody, where she was held for 24 hours and charged with evading arrest.


Are troublesome ADHD symptoms going untreated in African-American youth even after they are diagnosed? According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the answer is yes, reports NBC News. Researchers found that African-American youth with ADHD are more likely to go off of their medication and less likely to have adequate follow-up than their white counterparts. But, while the study focused mainly on the medication aspect of treatment, some parents are simply managing their children’s ADHD in other ways. LaTonia Taylor, of Corona, Calif., struggled for years to find the right regimen for her two daughters with ADHD. Both tried different medications before stopping them altogether in their teens. “Each time we adjusted the medications, it would cause problems with sleep patterns, eating patterns and mood swings. We decided to manage it with alternative methods,” Taylor explained.

If parents don’t see an immediate benefit or they notice side effects, they are more likely to stop their child’s medication, says Dr. Erikka Dzirasa, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director of Veritas Collaborative in Durham, North Carolina. “We need to communicate potential adverse effects so families can be prepared if their child experiences [these] effects,” Dzirasa said. “In my experience, families of color are more likely to prefer non-medication approaches before initiating medication,” Dzirasa stated.