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Across Black America week of June 22, 2017.



The parent of a Black student at Monta Vista High School filed a lawsuit against the Fremont Union High School District, alleging the district failed to take proper disciplinary action against several students who created a “kill list” targeting Black students, including her own child, reports the San Jose Mercury News. An attorney for the family said administrators failed to disclose the list to Black students or to law enforcement authorities, when the social media posts first surfaced in September, contends the lawsuit. Filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, the suit also claims the district violated federal and state civil rights claims as well as state education codes by failing to prevent discrimination against Black students and failing to enforce anti-bullying policies. “The students themselves had no idea that their lives were being threatened,” said community activist Walter Wilson during a press conference last week in San Jose. “The parents had no idea they were sending their kids to school in what they thought was a safe environment, which clearly it was not or may not have been.” The alleged “kill list,” which was created by six to 10 non-Black students and shared on Instagram and Snapchat, according to activists and the teen’s attorney, included intentions to “shoot and kill all Black students at the high school.” It referred to Black students with a racial slur and also included misogynistic comments toward female students. District and sheriff’s officials did not say whether the offensive list appeared to be a legitimate threat to harm students or an inappropriate attempt at humor.



Richard Williams, the 75-year-old father of tennis champs Serena and Venus Williams, has filed for divorce from his much younger wife in West Palm Beach, reports American Urban Radio. In his petition, the tennis coach, who is often credited for training his daughters in their younger years and laying the foundations that eventually made them into tennis superstars, believes his 38-year-old wife of seven years, Lakeisha Williams, is an alcoholic. He also claims she is stealing his social security checks and transferred ownership of their cars and a house to herself by forging his signature. Williams, who married Lakeisha in 2010, also claims she moved out last year and left their now 5-year-old son, Dylan, in his exclusive care. Lakeisha is barely older than his two daughters—Serena is 35 and Venus just turned 37. Richard Williams also alleges she left him for “a new person’ who has “serious criminal felony charges pending who could impose a danger to the minor child,” the document reads. When reached on her cellphone, Lakeisha told the network she couldn’t talk and hung up. Earlier this week, Williams was inducted into the American Tennis Association Hall of Fame.


Atlanta-based Patientory, the company behind an advanced healthcare app, has raised $7.2 million in a online crowd funding campaign, according to The tech startup, founded by CEO and Black entrepreneur 27-year-old Chrissa McFarlane, enables connecting digital medical records. McFarlane was able to raise the funding in just about three days by launching a campaign on Kickstarter. McFarlane drew 1,728 investors. She saw a real need for an application that would store private medical data in a secure area where it could not be hacked. The app can also store a patient’s entire health history and determine who can have access to it. McFarlane said that the app uses what is called block chain technology where patient information is coordinated through a health information exchange program. Patientory encrypts medical patients distributed in an un-hackable environment. McFarlane’s new company offers a unique solution to connecting digital medical records without compromising privacy, one of the biggest issues in healthcare today. According to Huffington Post, Patientory is one of the leading users of block chain in healthcare.



A Baton Rouge police officer injured during protest related to Alton Sterling last summer cannot sue Black Lives Matter or prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, because Black Lives Matter is a “movement” and not an entity that can be sued McKesson’s attorney argued before a federal judge last week, reports the Advocate. But a lawyer for the unnamed officer asked Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson to allow the officer’s suit to go forward, arguing that Black Lives Matter is an “unincorporated association” capable of being sued under Louisiana law. In a hearing last week on the suit that was filed in November, Jackson observed that the word organization is “often an ill-defined term.” The judge took under advisement arguments presented by McKesson’s attorney, Billy Gibbens, and Donna Grodner, the lawyer representing the officer. He said he’ll issue a ruling within the coming days. McKesson has asked Jackson to throw out the officer’s suit. The judge said a key question is whether, under Louisiana law, Black Lives Matter is capable of suing and being sued. Gibbens said the answer to that question is a resounding “no.” He called Black Lives Matter a “community of interests.” Gibbens also said McKesson is not an agent of Black Lives Matter. Gibbens said he has seen no evidence that Black Lives Matter has insurance, dues, a membership hierarchy or articles of association.


A judge has suspended property tax bills of dozens of homeowners near Detroit in the latest round of a decades-old lawsuit over the destruction of Black neighborhoods, reports U.S. News & World Report. Hamtramck has struggled to fulfill an agreement to offer low-cost family housing as the remedy for discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. Now the city has another problem: protests over soaring tax bills on many of the homes that were given to victims or their relatives. For example, Mary Miner’s taxes went up 63 percent, to $2,600. Attorney Michael Barnhart predicts a wave of foreclosures, if the city doesn’t reverse course. He says taxes must be part of affordable housing. Hamtramck denies that it is targeting Blacks. A judge has ordered negotiations and stopped tax collections at 68 homes.


Las Vegas police have confirmed that the White man accused of stabbing to death his 25-year-old Black roommate, Clifton Taylor, in May has been arrested in California, reports the Grio. Highway Patrol troopers took Zachary Drey, 25, into custody at a gas station near Indio the night of June 16. He will be held without bail on a single charge of being a fugitive from justice until he can be extradited back to Las Vegas. He has a warrant out for hist arrest on charges of murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. Taylor, the victim, was a computer engineering student serving as the president of UNLV’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter. He was stabbed on May 31 in his apartment and Drey was named as a suspect early on. According to report, Drey had called a family member and admitted to the killing. Detectives found Taylor dead in the bathtub. He had suffered significant stab wounds. Police think that the killing took place in another room and that Drey had attempted to clean up the scene. They set up a manhunt for Drey the same day as the killing, and he was considered armed and dangerous. Taylor had a full-time job awaiting him upon graduation at Northrop Grumman Corp., a global aerospace and defense technology company, according to Ashley Agoha, the secretary of UNLV’s National Society of Black Engineer chapter.

New Jersey

A Black high school student is upset that she was suspended after submitting a yearbook photo that featured artwork that had a racial slur and images of lynchings on it in the background, reports the Root. Jamaica Ponder, who attends Princeton High School, found herself sitting at home June 12 after school administrators took issue with the artwork in the background of a photo of her with some of her friends. When the yearbooks were distributed to students last week, Ponder was called to Principal Gary Snyder’s office, where she was informed that she would be suspended. Ponder explained in a blog post that the artwork in the background of the photo collage that caused administrators so much distress was of two of her father’s paintings that have been on the wall of her home for what seems like forever, to the point that she barely notices them anymore. In one painting, the slur isn’t fully visible, with part of the “n” “i,” “g” and “e” obscured by other students’ bodies. The painting depicts celebrities such as Michael Jackson hanging from trees and is so small in the background of the photo that it’s really hard to determine what is going on. Ponder wound up in trouble, even though she said the artwork’s inclusion was an oversight. She expressed her feelings that the administrators’ reactions were retaliatory, meant to silence her as a student who has been outspoken about racism at her school, with about 15 of them protesting the afternoon of June 12 and walking to Snyder’s office with signs reading, “Suspend me!” and a petition for Snyder to remove the supension from Ponder’s permanent record. The petition also asked school administrators and faculty to “contextualize incidents and carefully consider the racial context of their actions in the broader scheme of things.”

North Carolina

The Black Political Caucus held a “Conversation Versus Confrontations” forum June 17 at Trinity Episcopal School in hopes of stopping Charlotte’s rising homicide rate, reports WSOC TV. There have been at least 42 homicides so far in 2017, which is double the number of killings at this time in 2016. The caucus members invited the public to talk about solutions. Members said they plan to focus on stopping the violence this summer after the alarming number of homicides so far this year. What was heard from the crowd was distrust in police following a Minnesota verdict, where an officer was found not guilty in the shooting of a Black man, who many believe posed no threat. Philando Castille’s story was a big topic during the forum. “Where someone did everything right, everything that he could possibly do right, and was still shot dead,” one person said. People asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney about better training, suggested Black officers patrol Black communities and said the legal standard that allows an officer to use deadly force is too low Timisha Barnes-Jones, principal at West Mecklenburg High School, said there is a lot of distrust of police on her campus. Teen break-out sessions to talk about what to expect from an encounter with a police officer. “We were just talking about, don’t; give them a reason to think that you have trouble or are causing trouble,” 13-year-old Bayla Jones said. The group wants to strengthen the relationship between the Black community and police. Putney said these conversations are steps toward a safer city.


If only buildings could talk, the church at the corner of 12th and Lombard Streets in Center City Philadelphia would have a lot to say, reports NBC 10. That was especially true June 15, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its designation of Philadelphia as a “National Treasure.” St. Peter Claver Catholic Church tells an American story of faith, resistance and triumph. St. Peter Claver also tells a contemporary story of gentrification, displacement and lack of protection of the city’s historic resources,” saidFaye Anderson, director of All That Philly Jazz, a place-based public history project that is documenting Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz. She is one of a number of African Americans in the city who have been vocal about preserving St. Peter Claver. “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia wants to put the Mother Church of Black Catholics on the auction block,” she told NBC10. “In the wake of the development boom, historic Black churches have fallen victim to Philadelphia’s culture of demolition. If St. Peter Claver is erased from public memory, it would make a mockery of Philadelphia’s designation as a National Trust by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.” The church, dedicated in 1892 and owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was the first Catholic Church in Philadelphia where Blacks could worship without having to sit in the balcony or back pews; the only one, in those days, in which they need not wait for the White congregants to receive Communion before they did. It became the “Mother church” for Black Catholics in the city and remained that until 1986, when the Archdiocese first suppressed it (limited worship at the site), and then officially shuttered it in 2014.



Charges were dropped against a Black Texas A&M University-Commerce student involved in a May 20 incident that led to what was called a wrongful arrest. Carmen Ponder, 23, was being charged with evading arrest or detention, but the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges last week, citing a lack of evidence. Ponder said that she was harassed by a motorist in the parking lot of the Commerce Walmart. According to Ponder, a black truck followed her into the parking lot after she passed the truck on the road. She says that the passenger, who said he was teaching his 14-year- old daughter how to drive, got out of the vehicle and accosted her. Ponder initially believed that the man she was interacting with was Commerce Chief of Police Kerry Crews. According to a city statement, Crews was at Walmart as a customer and became involved in the incident when approached by one of the parties. Video of the incident released on Tuesday shows Crews, in plain clothes, approach Ponder as she exited the store, flashing his badge in the process. Ponder then called 911 after being approached by Crews. Once an officer arrived on the scene, Crews can be heard telling the officer to arrest Ponder. Ponder and her attorney assert that she was made to apologize to the chief, which led to her arrest upon not complying. On video of the incident obtained by Channel 4 KDFW television there is no mention of an apology to the chief, but Ponder’s attorney, Lee Merritt, says that the alleged non-apology which led to an arrest is the basis of a potential civil rights lawsuit.  “False charges dropped  against #CarmenPonder#missblacktexas2016 for ‘insufficient evidence,’” Merritt said on Twitter Tuesday, “but demands for justice remain.”


Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. won’t be taking the assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security, reports the Root. “Late Friday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. formally notified Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly that he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS as an assistant secretary,” Craig Peterson, an adviser to Clarke told the Washington Post. “Sheriff Clarke is 100 percent committed to the success of President Trump and believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role.” Clarke has been one of the most vocal Black voices in supporting President Donald Trump. According to the Post, Clarke was given his role at DHS and was set to start in June, but “was accused of plagiarism” has drawn scrutiny for conditions in his jails that left one mentally ill inmate dead,” the Post reports. Clarke reportedly met with President Trump in Wisconsin to discuss other roles that he could be gifted inside the Trump administration. “The sheriff is reviewing options inside and outside of government,” Peterson told the Post. “Sheriff Clarke told Secretary Kelly he is very appreciative of the tremendous opportunity the secretary was offering, and expressed his support for the secretary and the agency.”


The Library of Congress has named African American Tracy K. Smith its new poet laureate, the nation’s highest honor in that field, reports the New York Times. With the appointment, Smith will take on a role held by some of the country’s most revered poets. Smith, 45, said she planned to use the position to be a literary evangelist of sorts, by visiting small towns and rural areas to hold poetry events. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go,” she said. “Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.” Smith is the 22nd poet to take on the position, which dates to 1937 and is officially titled poet laureate consultant in poetry. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said that she had been drawn to Smith’s work because of the way her poems blend personal observations and experiences with weightier, universal themes. “She takes on issues like death and spirituality and history and makes them relatable,” Hayden said. “These aren’t simple poems, but they are direct, and you can get into them based on your experience.” Toi Derricotte, a poet and chancellor on the board of the Academy of American Poets, said Smith’s commitment to poetry organizations such as Cave Canem, and her skill as a creative writing teacher, made her well suited to being an ambassador for the form.

Compiled By Carol Ozemhoya.