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Across Black America week of June 29, 2017.



A teenager battling cancer, who inspired the Golden State Warriors, achieved yet another victory. WPVI-TV reports that Darryl Aikens graduated from McClymonds High School in Oakland on June 9. The road to graduation was fraught with aggressive treatments and medical procedures, because Aikens is living with leukemia. One such victory was meeting Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and other members of the Golden State Warriors, who felt inspired by Aikens’ tenacity. Last December, the Make a Wish foundation arranged for Aikens to attend a Warriors practice. “This is my first time,” Aikens told KGI-TV. “For me to live in Oakland 19 years and this is my first time being up here. Knowing that it’s up here, but never being invited to come up here.” Aikens was fearful that he wouldn’t reach another milestone in most teenagers’ life: high school graduation. During a visit to the oncologist, his family received the grim prognosis that the cancer had returned, and he had only months to live. Aikens pushed forward with life, however, and he completed the requirements for graduation and walked across the stage.

District of Columbia

Three African-American teens found themselves in handcuffs on June 22 after they were caught selling water bottles at Washington, D.C.’s National Mall without a permit, reports Newsweek. In a statement, Sgt. Anna Rose of the U.S. Park Police said that the teens—two 17 year olds and a 16-year-old—were placed in handcuffs and detained for the “safety of the officers and of the individuals.”  A photo snapped of three plainclothes officers detaining the teenagers near the Mall’s Smithsonian Castle went viral June 23 after passerby Tim Krepp, a tour guide, tweeted the image of the boys in handcuffs sitting next to a bin of plastic water bottles. “My kids sell water and everyone smiles at them. These kids do it and get arrested. It IS racist,” Krepp wrote, later adding, “God forbid the actual free market be allowed on our National Mall.” The photo sparked public outrage over the authorities’ aggressive handling of the boys, with several commenters, including Krepp, who called the officers’ decision to handcuff and detain the teens a racial injustice. “There’s obviously a racial disparity in how they are treating these young men and other vendors that we see on the mall,” Krepp wrote. However, Rose said that the incident was “blown out of proportion,” adding, “Vending on the National Mall is illegal without a permit,” Rose said, adding that the teens were released without charges after their parents arrived at the park’s police station.


The Small Business Administration (SBA) said June 21 it is teaming up with New Orleans-based Liberty Bank to guarantee loans for Black business owners, the first such partnership between the agency and a Black-owned bank. The government agency and the U.S. Black Chamber plan to back as much as 50 percent of some business loans provided by Liberty Bank in an attempt to remedy one of the most widely voiced complaints from Black business owners—that they can’t get adequate capital for their enterprises, when they need it. Just 47 percent of Black business owners got the full amount of funding requested from banks, credit unions or other financial institutions, compared with 76 percent of Whites, according to a survey of entrepreneurs conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014, the latest data available. Exacerbating the credit gap, many Black business owners forgo seeking capital in the first place. The fear of being rejected was the top reason cited by Black business owners who chose not to seek capital, with 59 percent saying they didn’t think they would be approved. In general, lending backed by the Small Business Administration helps shield banks from loans that are considered riskier, typically labeled as such if the bank lacks adequate capital or if the business owner has a lower credit score or business revenue. It gives banks the ability to lend to small-business owners who typically wouldn’t qualify for traditional business loans. The formula for deciding whether a loan is risky includes three factors that continue to plague Black-owned banks and businesses. Black-owned banks have significantly less capital on hand than other banks, and Black business owners statistically have lower credit scores and revenue than their White counterparts. “Most lenders have a box, and the access to it is so high that many businesses are unable to reach it and are left out, specifically African-American businesses,” said Ann Duplessis, vice president of Liberty Bank. “This allows us to be flexible. We [can] mitigate that disadvantage.”


The NAACP announced its 108th annual convention, beginning Saturday, July 22 through Wednesday, July 26 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Embracing the theme, “Steadfast and Immovable,” the NAACP will be headed back to its headquarters city to set policies, programs and plans of action for the coming year, while also moving to address today’s challenges collectively-notably the current climate of economic uncertainty and political unrest. The organization’s national convention expects to attract some 8,000 members, supporters, branch delegates and staff, local youth activists and organizers, legislators, business leaders and celebrities, all coming together to engage, network, share strategies, successes and key learning with the purpose of driving the NAACP’s agenda forward. “This year’s convention takes place at a pivotal time for our country, and for our association,” said Leon W. Russell, chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors. “These are changing times, and today, we find ourselves in a new period of turmoil as a nation. We are facing a budget that threatens to gut critical funding for education, a rollback in Civil Rights enforcement, and a rollback in health care reform that will take affordable care away from 23 million Americans, all while we witness unprecedented efforts to suppress the votes of Black and brown people, young people and progressives who would work to see this nation become more inclusive and just,” he added. The five-day conference will feature a series of seminars, committee meetings, workshops, exhibits and panel discussions, augmented with inspiring keynote addresses from key NAACP leadership, civil rights and faith leaders, media, youth and political influencers. Other highlights will include the NAACP ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technical and Scientific Olympics) final competition and awards. More details can be found at


A Black off-duty St. Louis police officer was shot by a White on-duty police officer from the same department who apparently mistook him for a fleeing suspect, according to a statement from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, reports CBS News. At about 10 p.m. June 21, St. Louis police received a report that a stolen vehicle had been spotted. Officers laid down spike strips and turned on their lights, but the occupants of the vehicle allegedly opened fire on police. Officers followed the car until it crashed. According to the police statement, the armed suspects then fled on foot. Meanwhile, an off-duty officer who lived near where the crash occurred came outside with his department issued firearm after hearing the commotion. Two officers “challenged the off-duty officer and ordered him to the ground,” the department said. The officer complied and once they recognized him, the on-duty officers told him “to stand up and walk toward them. “At about the same time, another officer who had just arrived on the scene saw what was happening and “fearing for his safety and apparently not recognizing the off-duty officer, discharged a shot, striking the off-duty officer in the arm.” The injured officer was taken to the hospital and has since been released. He is described as 38-year-old with 11 years of service. The department says that the officer who allegedly shot him is 36 years old with more than eight years of service. Seven officers have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

New Jersey

A New Jersey community college has fired an adjunct professor after officials say she made racially insensitive comments on Fox News, reports the Grio. Essex County College’s president announced the decision two weeks after Lisa Durden’s appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” College officials said they received complaints about Durden’s interview with Carlson. Durden, who is Black, discussed a Memorial Day event held exclusively for Black people hosted by a Black Lives Matter group. When Carlson asked her thoughts, Durden interrupted the host, saying: “Boo hoo hoo. You White people are angry because you couldn’t use your White privilege card” to attend the event. The show aired June 6, and the school suspended Durden with pay two days later. She addressed the matter during a public meeting with school officials, but was soon fired. Essex County College President Anthony Munroe said the school “supports and affirms the right of free speech and independent views and expressions of those views” for faculty and staff. He also noted that although Durden did not mention her affiliation with the school during her television appearance or claim to be representing its views, “her employment with us and potential impact on students required our immediate review into what seemed to have become a very contentious and divisive issue.” Durden has said the school “publicly lynched” her.


Jawara McIntosh, the youngest son of reggae legend Peter Tosh, lies comatose in a Boston hospital following an attack inside New Jersey’s Bergen County Jail, where he was serving a six-month sentence for cannabis-related charges, reports Billboard. According to a press release issued by his family on June 22, McIntosh, a reggae artist in his own right known professionally as Tosh 1, was brutally beaten and sustained traumatic brain injuries on Feb. 21 while in the care of the Bergen County Jail. That same day, Jawara’s mother, Melody Cunningham, received a call from New Jersey’s Hackensack Medical Center informing her that Jawara needed immediate surgery to save his life, resulting from the ordeal. The release did not specify what the circumstances were surrounding the beating or who was responsible. Cunningham and Jawara’s nine siblings, including his sister Niambe McIntosh, administrator of the Peter Tosh Estate, will pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the Bergen County Jail “for directly participating in and/or failing to prevent Jawara from being beaten into a coma while in their custody.” The McIntosh family is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate; they have retained civil rights attorney Jasmine Rand who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in their cases and local counsel Shelley Stangler, who has handled numerous civil rights suits.


A mistrial was declared June 23 in the murder retrial of a White University of Cincinnati police officer after a jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on charges in the fatal traffic stop shooting of an unarmed Black motorist, reports the Associated Press. The Hamilton County jury had deliberated more than 30 hours over five days after getting the case June 19. The jurors had told Judge Leslie Ghiz earlier June 23 that they were unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Officer Ray Tensing, but Ghiz sent them back to try again on the counts of murder and voluntary manslaughter. Instead, they sent her another note some three hours later saying: “We are almost evenly split regarding our votes.” The note said they didn’t foresee reaching a unanimous verdict. The first trial against the 27-year-old Tensing also ended in a mistrial after the jury deliberated 25 hours over four days in November without reaching a verdict. Prosecutors will have to decide whether to try Tensing for a third time. Tensing shot 43-year-old Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate on July 19, 2015.


One of the Seattle police officers who fatally shot Charleena Lyles is under internal investigation for violating department policy by leaving his uncharged Taser in his locker for more than a week leading up to the shooting, the Police Department’s civilian watchdog said June 24, reports the Seattle Times. Officer Jason Anderson, on the force for two years, told investigators after the shooting that he did not carry his Taser during his shift June 18, when the shooting occurred, according to interview transcripts released by Seattle police. Seconds before the shooting, Anderson said, when Lyles pulled a knife, the other officer, Steven McNew, called out for him to use his Taser on her. Anderson replied that he didn’t have it, and within seconds, as Lyles began moving toward the two officers, Anderson said, they both shot her. The shooting of Lyles, a 30-year-old African-American mother of four, by two White officers has drawn an outcry from family and others, who say race was a factor.


Nearly three years after the city of Seattle first broke ground on its planned Jimi Hendrix Park, the 2.5-acre park finally opened to the public on June 17, reports Rolling Stone. For more than a decade, Seattle and the Jimi Hendrix estate attempted to construct Jimi Hendrix Park, located in the city’s Central District and walking distance from the legendary guitarist’s childhood home. However, permits, funding and construction delays hindered the project until recently, when more than 200 people attended the park’s opening, reports the New York Times. The opening came one day before the 50th anniversary of Hendrix’s legendary Monterey Pop Festival show when the musician set his guitar on fire. The park, which sits adjacent to the city’s Northwest African American Museum, brims with nods to the guitar god: The lyrics to Hendrix’s “Angel” and “Little Wing” are etched into the walkways, while another path modeled after the neck of a guitar is adorned by plaques detailing Hendrix’s life. There are also Hendrix-inspired sculptures—such as the “Shadow Wave Wall,” the product of a $300,000 donation from Sony Music, and a shaded performance stage.


A Milwaukee jury on June 21 acquitted a former police officer in the on-duty shooting of a Black man last year that ignited riots on the city’s north side. Jurors found that Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who is also Black, was not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide when he shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith after a brief foot chase following a traffic stop Aug. 13. Smith had a gun when he ran, but the case hinged on whether he was a threat when Heaggan-Brown fired the shot that killed him. Body-camera video showed Heaggan-Brown shooting Smith once in the arm, as he appeared to be throwing the gun over a fence. The video showed a second shot—1.69 seconds later—hit Smith in the chest as he lay on the ground. Prosecutors argued Smith was defenseless at the time of the second shot because he had thrown the gun over the fence. Defense attorneys argued Heaggan-Brown had to act quickly to defend himself. “I don’t agree with the decision, but I have to respect it,” said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who made the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown. That put him at odds with Police Chief Edward Flynn, who had said the shooting was justified. Heaggan-Brown was fired from the police force in October after being charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case. The sexual assault case was not mentioned during the trial because it is being handled separately and knowledge of it could have prejudiced the jury.