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Across Black America Week of Aug. 31, 2017.



A university professor in Arizona has been suspended over controversial comments he made about Black Lives Matter activists nearly a year ago, reports Fox News. Professor Toby Jennings of Grand Canyon University ignited a firestorm, after the university posted a link to a ministry forum from last September in which he said that some members in the Black Lives Matter group “should be hung. They are saying things that are not helpful in any shape or form or human dignity or flourishing,” the African-American professor said during the forum, which was videotaped. GCU officials told Fox 10 Phoenix that Jennings was advised that his comments during the forum, called “God’s concern for the poor: What’s missing in social justice,” were offensive, but it was not brought up to the school’s top executives at the time. However, members of the Black Lives Matter movement were outraged, when it was shared recently. In response, Jennings was suspended for the upcoming fall semester. He has also apologized.


The bodyguard for Memphis rapper Finese2Tymes was charged with 10 counts of aggravated assault in relation to a July 1 shooting at a Little Rock nightclub during the rapper’s concert, reports the Rolling Stone. Kentrell Gwynn, who was arrested along with Ricky “Finese2Tymes” Hampton in Birmingham the day after the shooting, was formally charged on Aug. 25. Twenty-eight people were injured in the incident, including 25 people who suffered gunshot wounds. Shell casings found at the scene matched those from Gwynn’s weapon following a ballistics test. Gwynn is currently in prison on federal weapons charges stemming from the Little Rock shooting as well as an unrelated Forrest City, Ark., shooting that took place June 25th.


The possibility of impermissible contact between Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and four-time All-Star Paul George is at the crux of an NBA probe into tampering, league sources told ESPN. The Indiana Pacers filed tampering charges with the NBA against the Lakers, and the league issued a statement last week saying that an investigation is underway. The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN. “As the NBA’s statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation,” the Lakers said in a statement. “We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible. If the league office’s probe – which was initiated around the time of the NBA draft in late June – can prove that the Lakers tampered with George while he was under contract with Indiana, they can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

For the second time this year, Bay Area rapper Keak Da Sneak is in the hospital, after reportedly being shot. The 39-year-old MC (born Charles Williams) credited as the leader of the West Coast Hyphy movement, was said to be in stable condition last week following surgery after being shot several times early Aug. 21 in front of a gas station in Richmond, according to the East Bay Times. Richmond Police Lt. Felix Tan said that officers responded around 5:30 a.m. after a call about shots fired. Williams performed a headlining set on Aug. 20 at the Complex in downtown Oakland.

Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life (ANWOL), who spent 20 years in and out of California prisons, traveled to Sacramento last week to meet with the Legislative Women’s Caucus about the challenges faced by convicted and incarcerated women in the state. Burton also visited Folsom State Prison under special permission. Her visit comes in the wake of a scathing report by the state auditor last week, revealing that although female inmates account for about 4 percent of the state prison’s population, they accounted for 11 percent of inmate suicides from 2014 through 2016. And when looking at attempted suicides, the numbers are worse, with 115 female suicide attempts over the same period – 49 in 2016 alone, up from 23 attempts in 2013. In 2016, the suicide attempt rate in women’s prisons was 10 per 1,000 inmates, versus only 3 per 1,000 for all other California prisons. Twenty years ago, after her last time locked away, Burton embarked upon a journey to support other women exiting incarceration and facing a multitude of barriers to rejoining their families and communities. Today, ANWOL operates five safe homes in South Los Angeles, and includes legal, policy and organizing departments, collectively serving thousands of Californians on their path to independent living, family reunification, meaningful employment and a true second chance.

The Black AIDS Institute is inducting a select group of individuals and organizations that have made commendable heroic contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Black America. The star-studded 16th annual Heroes in the Struggle Awards Presentation and Reception will be held on Sept. 16 at the Darryl F. Zanuck Theater at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles. The 2017 inductees include Taraji P. Henson, Laverne Cox, Vanessa Williams, Alfre Woodard, Gina Belafonte, and Gina Brown. The 2017 Corporate Hero is Novant Health. Black AIDS Institute board member Jussie Smollett serves as chair and host. The 2017 theme is Black Men Honoring Black Women. The awards presentation is produced by Russelli and Hall.


As soon as Denver’s Theo Wilson started making YouTube videos about culture and race, trolls using racial slurs started flocking to his page, reports the Denver Post. After engaging in endless sparring matches in the comments section, Wilson began to notice something curious: His trolls seemed to speak a language unto themselves, one replete with the same twisted facts and false history. It was as if they had all passed through some “dimensional doorway,” arriving from an alternative universe where history, politics and commonly accepted facts had been turned inside out. Wilson, 36, – an award-winning poet and actor – decided to go undercover in their world. In 2015, he started by creating a ghost profile named “Lucious25,” a digital White supremacist who appeared to be an indigenous member of the alt-right’s online echo chamber, he said. During his eight months as a racist troll, Wilson never revealed his true identity. When it was all over, Wilson said, he came to appreciate the way in which the far-right media bubble disables its participants — offering an endless stream of scapegoats for their problems but no credible solution.


Police are seeking the person who vandalized a “Black Lives Matter” sign at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, 700 Hartford Turnpike, reports the Connecticut Post. Hamden Police responded to the Unitarian Society shortly after reports last Sunday of criminal mischief. Investigation revealed that a “Black Lives Matter” sign, which was inside the organization’s property line, was vandalized. The word “Black” was cut and folded over. The sign then read “Lives Matter.” The complainant estimated the damage to the sign at $150.


The city of St. Augustine employed twice as many African Americans as of August than it did about four years ago, according to city of St. Augustine employment data, reports the St. Since June of 2013, the number of Black people employed by the city increased from 14 to 28. The city had 362 employees total as of August. The change came alongside an effort by a volunteer group, which formed after local elections in 2014 to increase the number of Black people working in city government. City Manager John Regan said he watches all minority demographics and is committed to diversity, and when a group approached him a few years ago about meeting monthly, he embraced the idea.


Gov. Nathan Deal said he was open to appointing a Black member to the board that governs state-owned Stone Mountain Park amid new scrutiny into the nation’s largest monument to the Confederate war dead, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Deal said he hadn’t realized that each of the 10 members of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association board was White and said “we’d certainly be open” to tapping an African-American leader to serve on the panel. Stone Mountain and its towering carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is the center of debate over Rebel symbols, after the bloody violence in Charlottesville, Va. And the lack of diversity on its board is well known in DeKalb County. One of the loudest calls to remove the Confederate trio from the mountain is from State Rep. Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor, who drew national attention for her vow to take a symbolic sandblaster to the mount. She told CNN last week it was designed to “terrorize Black families.” “Confederate monuments have nothing to do with any of our American history except for treason and domestic terrorism,” she said.


A father in the community of fishers says it was time to move his family away from a predominately White community, where he felt his Black family wasn’t welcomed, reports Fox 59. Last month, Chris Sullivan says he was returning home from the gym in the Britton Ridge subdivision in Fishers, when police approached him about a domestic disturbance call. He says police shined their light on him and asked what he was doing there. During the encounter, he was asked to show his ID and that’s when he says things escalated. “At this point, I have my red bag on my shoulder bag with my basketball in it and shoes and I say, ‘Hey, it’s in here,’ like this gesture and he does one of these like hand on his gun and that’s when I slide out of my bag ‘excuse me’ and I put my hands up and he says, ‘Well, we’re going to have to search you,’” Sullivan said. Although police were looking for a White male with a specific name, Sullivan says he became a suspect. This wasn’t the family’s first unpleasant encounter in the Britton Ridge subdivision. Back in July, Sullivan discovered an anonymous letter in his mailbox complaining about his lawn, calling it ghetto and trashy. But this time, a run-in with police was the final straw. “After that I knew it was time to go, because if I can’t pull up to my house and walk in at 11 p.m. by myself then there’s an issue. There’s a profiling issue especially when the description said a White male, and I’m clearly a little darker than that,” Sullivan said.

New York

For the first time in West Point’s 215-year history, a Black woman is leading the 4,400 cadets at the Army’s prestigious military college, reports USA Today. Cadet Simone Askew assumed the post of First Captain, the highest position in the cadets chain of command, earlier this month. She describes the distinction as humbling and exciting. But her toughest challenge at West Point, she says, has been personal, not professional. “I think my mom will tell you that I don’t call her enough,” Askew said. “That’s definitely one of the toughest. It’s difficult, when you have a duty to an organization that creates an environment where the work is never ending. In theory, I could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and I’d still have emails to be read.” Askew, from Fairfax, Va., was in elementary school when she set her mind to leading troops. Attending the annual Army vs. Navy football game sparked her interest in attending West Point. Askew competes on the crew team, studies international history and aspires to a career as a military intelligence officer.

North Carolina

Christopher Barker, a leader of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in North Carolina, agreed to meet for an interview at his home late last month with Ilia Calderón, a Colombian news anchor for Univision based in Miami, reports the Washington Post. He was told the interview would be conducted by a Hispanic “woman of color.” But when Barker saw Calderón step out of a car and onto his property near Yanceyville, the KKK leader appeared taken aback, according to Calderón and her producer, María Martínez-Guzmán. He had expected someone like the rest of the predominately Hispanic, lighter-skinned news crew, they said. But Calderón is Black. Barker told her she was the first Black person to step on his land in his 20 years of living there. Barker is the “imperial wizard” of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK in Pelham, a group that would later participate in a deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Va. Calderón is a U.S. citizen and Colombian immigrant. Univision planned the interview with Barker and his wife, Amanda Barker, months in advance to provide viewers with an up-close look into a White supremacist’s views, Calderón told the Washington Post. Calderón told The Post she had volunteered to do the interview, in order to show her Latino viewers that “these groups are alive.” The reporter said she had been nervous to meet Barker, but had never expected to feel as insulted and threatened as she did during the encounter.


More than 50 people gathered last week at Abundant Life Church for a Black Pflugerville monthly community meeting, which aims to combat racism locally but focused on healing this time after the recent Charlottesville, Va., White supremacist rally that left three people dead and dozens injured, reports the Statesman. “Pflugerville is a growing and culturally diverse city,” said Black Pflugerville president Sheldon Lamey. “We’re trying to bring people together and to see how we can build bridges, not tear them down.” Neighbors, veterans, police officers, politicians, community organizers, pastors and youth all shared their concerns about racism at the meeting and how it was affecting their daily lives. Many attendees expressed feeling trauma after seeing marchers on television raising torches. “The pain is real and it’s time to heal,” said Meme Styles, Black Pflugerville vice president. Community members discussed the Black community’s relationship with police as well as brushes with discrimination in schools and throughout the decades. “We have to start with changing ourselves,” said Round Rock resident Donnie Aldridge, 69. “I can’t change others.”

Texas Jail Project, a nonprofit that advocates for improving conditions in Texas county jails, and MomsRising, an online and on-the-ground multicultural organization of more than 1 million mothers and their families, are petitioning a Jefferson County judge to release Kandace Washington, a 22-year-old Black mother who is more than seven months pregnant. At a bond hearing last week, Judge John Stevens refused to release her on bail or on a personal recognizance bond, despite the fact that her pregnancy has been deemed “high-risk.” She is not a flight risk, and she has not yet been convicted of the non-violent charge against her. Diana Claitor, executive director of Texas Jail Project, has been monitoring the situation since Washington was booked into the jail on July 9. Jarvis Cooper, partner and father of Kandace Washington’s baby, said: “We are just so worried about our baby, and it seems like nobody else is — it’s almost like they don’t think of us as humans.” MomsRising launched a petition calling for the immediate release of Washington to ensure her access to appropriate pre-natal care for her health and her unborn baby’s protection. She will still be required to return to court for her case proceedings – there is a well-established system in place for ensuring the return of people who are released pretrial, like those who are able to post a money bond. The petition, which has been signed by more than 10,000 people, argues that Judge Stevens should trust this system and allow Washington to receive the lifesaving care she and her baby need.


Charlottesville is planning to cover the statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in black fabric. The Daily Progress reports the city council voted unanimously early Aug. 22 to shroud the statues in fabric to represent the city’s mourning of Heather Heyer. The 32-year-old woman was killed when a car rammed into a group of people protesting a White nationalist rally in the city. The rally was sparked by an earlier decision to remove a statue of Lee. The vote came after anger boiled over at the first city council meeting since the rally. Some residents screamed and cursed at council members and called for their resignations. A police spokeswoman said three people were arrested and released on a summons for disorderly conduct.


Even after decades of affirmative action, Black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis. The share of Black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans. More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened. The Times analysis includes 100 schools ranging from public flagship universities to the Ivy League. For both Blacks and Hispanics, the trend extends back to at least 1980, the earliest year that fall enrollment data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics. Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities. The courts have ruled that colleges and universities can consider race or ethnicity “as one element in a holistic admissions policy, so it’s something that can be considered, but it’s not a magic bullet,” he said. Affirmative action increases the numbers of Black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.