Skip to content

Across Black America Week of Sept. 7, 2017.



San Diego State University plans to offer a course called Black Minds Matter: A Focus on Black Boys and Men in Education, that was inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Associated Press. The weekly course will be open to the public for enrollment in October and will feature various speakers who will talk about how Black men are undervalued in the classroom. The professor who helped create the online course says it will connect themes from the Black Lives Matter movement to issues facing Blacks in educational settings. The upcoming course has drawn criticism. However, a number of U.S. colleges, including New York University, University of Washington and the University of Miami, now offer courses that include discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement.


In 2012, a Port Richey couple found a cross burning in their yard. It was one night, Halloween, but the effects of the hate crime on the couple lasted much longer, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Two of the men responsible were sentenced Aug. 29 in federal court, where they heard words of the lasting pain and fear that they caused their victims: a Black boyfriend and White girlfriend living in the neighborhood. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven sentenced Thomas Herris Sigler III to 33 months in prison and William A. Dennis to 21 months, each with three years of supervision after release. The victims – identified just by their initials – were not in court. Prosecutors said reliving the night is too much for D.M., the man, to bear. His girlfriend, however, put her experience into words. In a victim impact statement read aloud by the judge, K.L. said the crime changed both of their lives forever, in ways she presumed the felons could not imagine. “It felt like we had our very own, personal group of terrorists,” she wrote.


Georgia’s Republican state Rep. Jason Spencer told his former colleague on Aug. 29 that she and others supporting the removal of state-sponsored Confederate monuments and landmarks could “go missing,” reports the Huffington Post. Attorney and former state Democratic Rep. LaDawn Jones, who says she regularly debated with Spencer in person and online, was shocked by the menacing comments she received. The exchange began on a Facebook post, when Spencer posted a picture of the Jefferson Davis memorial. Jones had criticized Spencer’s support for Confederate monuments, arguing that the objects shouldn’t be supported by state tax dollars. The former representative says that tense discussions about race weren’t uncommon between the two and that she appreciated the dialogue. “We educated each other,” the Atlanta-based attorney told HuffPost. But Spencer’s comments took a disturbing turn, Jones says, especially when he suggested that harm might come to those who attempt to remove or question the monuments in southern Georgia. “Continue your quixotic journey into South Georgia and it will not be pleasant,” he wrote. “The truth. Not a warning. Those folks won’t put up with it like they do in Atlanta. It best you move on.” “I can guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive,” he wrote. “They will go missing in the Okefenokee [swamp],” he continued. “Too many necks they are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.” Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was concerned by Spencer’s comments, but didn’t fear for her life. “If it were anybody other than Jason Spencer, then I would be alarmed. But we had a unique relationship in the Georgia legislature,” Jones said. “If that had come from anybody else, I’d take it as a serious threat. Because if that’s representative of what people in south Georgia think, then yikes,” she added.

A White Cobb County police lieutenant who told a woman during a traffic stop that “we only shoot Black people” will be fired, the police chief said on Aug. 31, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. But even as Chief Mike Register was on live TV announcing the termination of Lt. Greg Abbott, Abbott was sending an email to the county announcing his retirement, Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said. Boyce said it wasn’t clear how that development would affect plans to dismiss the officer. At a press conference, Chief Register said, “I have known Lt. (Greg) Abbott for years and perceived him as honorable, but he’s made a mistake. I don’t know what is in his heart, but I know what came out of his mouth. We recommend that he be terminated and we are moving forward on that.”

A fairly new organization in Albany is forming to showcase Black-owned businesses in the city, reports WLB Channel 10. The goal of the Albany Business League is to offer support for African-American entrepreneurs such as Paul Scott. “This is always something I wanted to do as far as owning my own store, being able to make the decisions I felt best impacted patients and their health care,” Scott said. Two years ago, Scott opened the doors to his own business, Scott’s Pharmacy. He said it is the only Black-owned pharmacy in Albany. “I can tell that it’s definitely a sense of empowerment when they come and they say ‘hey, we want to talk to the owner’ or ‘we want to talk to the manager’ and I tell them that it’s me. A lot of people light up about that,” he said. Now a new group, the Albany Business League is gearing up to advocate for businesses like Scott’s. Chair Sherrell Byrd said the number of Black-owned businesses is quickly growing in Albany. She said support of those businesses is vital. The group is just under two years old. Members have been researching how to best address problems that Byrd said can be unique to Black-owned businesses like providing start-up capital and tackling negative perceptions.


Dondre Anderson and his two daughters, Amina and Amari, love quality time, but most days you’ll likely find them in the kitchen cooking up potato chips for their new Black-owned business, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Dondre has been a successful entrepreneur for years. He launched All A’s Spice seasonings back in 2010. When he began promoting the brand, he sprinkled the spice on his homemade potato chips, so potential buyers could taste it. Pretty soon, he had sold out of his products thanks to the chips and decided to create his own line with the help of his daughters. They call the gluten-free, MSG-free and all natural snack Symphony Chips, and their invention has made them one of the few Black-owned potato chip producers in the world. Symphony Chips are available online for wholesale and retail orders. The family is also taking their invention on the road. Their first stop will be at Atlanta House in the Park Music Festival and later other events across the country.


As Civil War statues disappear across the nation, Black leaders and legislators called on Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin to remove a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis instead of flip-flopping on the issue. “Sometimes you have to determine if you’re going to be a reed in the wind or an oak,” Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal told the Courier-Journal. “Apparently he is playing the game of the reed, bending to whatever the political winds may bring.”  The senator from the 33rd District was joined by Black professors, activists and lawmakers in rebuking the placement of the 15-foot Confederate sculpture that has sat in the Capitol Rotunda for more than 80 years. As a candidate for governor, Bevin advocated for the removal of the statue but recently called it a “dangerous precedent” to tear it down. During a Aug. 30 protest, Radcliff city councilman Stan Holmes said the statue is a symbol of bigotry and that Bevin shouldn’t let it stand. “Now is not the time to break from fighting racism,” Holmes said, his voice echoing through the rotunda dome. “So, governor, tear down those old walls!” Eleven African-American leaders in Kentucky last week sent Bevin a letter urging him to remove the statue.


Three Black guys from north Minneapolis walk into a largely vacant office building on a drab industrial corner of St. Paul. They don’t have much cash, but they think they’re funny, and they’re pretty sure other people think they’re funny, too, reports MPR. org. So, they open a comedy club focused on comedians of color. Financially it’s a grind. But then one day, after being open for only a few months, international comedy and film megastar Kevin Hart shows up and says he wants to put them and their industrial park comedy club on national TV. It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Hart flew into the Twin Cities earlier last month to film an episode of his Comedy Central series, “Hart of the City,” at Badass Comedy Co. Hart’s show gives national exposure to talented but undiscovered comedians in different cities. Baddies, which opened in February, is a labor of love for the three local comics who wanted to bring diversity to the Twin Cities comedy scene by consistently providing stage time for comedians of color. Hart’s spotlight may soon make it a much bigger deal for the owners, and the region’s comedy business. The Twin Cities is an untapped market for African-American comics, said Baddies co-owner Pierre “Cool P” Douglas Sr. “While comedy is universal, there are cultural differences,” he said. “There were comedians from out-of-state who wanted to come here and people willing to pay to see them,” Douglas said.


Police said that after Bradley Austin, 47, was arrested the morning of Aug. 30, he later confirmed he left threatening phone messages on an answering machine at a NAACP office in Las Vegas, reports Fox 5. During an interview with Metro Police, Austin confirmed he made threatening statements filled with racial slurs on the voice mail for a local NAACP office, authorities said. “I’m much happier knowing he’s behind bars” NAACP Las Vegas president Roxann McCoy said. “It seems the calls have ceased.” Police initially received information about the threatening messages on Aug. 28. “He left around eight messages,” McCoy said. “[In some of the messages] he was saying things like he had my license plate number and he referenced the fact that he knew we called police.” The voice messages also contained references to White supremacy, statues being taken down across the nation, and dead people being registered to vote for the election. In a police report, the messages included Austin making a reference to “knocking down the statue of Martin L. King in North Las Vegas,” and also mentioning that he went to a gun show and “purchased defense tools.” Austin reportedly told authorities his racially charged comments were “sparked by recent assassination threats towards President Trump.”  During the course of the investigation, detectives were able to identify Austin as a suspect in the case. Early on Aug. 30, officers arrested Austin at a residence in the 1800 block of Tourmaline Blue Street. While McCoy was relieved, she said the hatred conveyed in the messages speaks to a larger issue. “We live in 2017 and we’re still having this type of hatred and intimidation in this time,” McCoy said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

South Carolina

Across South Carolina and the South, Confederate monuments are ubiquitous, reports the Fort Mill Times. In Rock Hill, York, Chester, Lancaster, the monuments are in front of county courthouses and in cemeteries, and tout a cause historians say clearly was born out of secession to keep slavery. Fort Mill is different. It has a monument in its Confederate Park dedicated to slaves. “Faithful slaves” to the Confederacy, the monument states, memorialized by the Samuel White family of Fort Mill. Descendants of slaves in the Fort Mill area say that monument should stay right where it is. “That time in history happened. We can’t go back and change that,” said Fort Mill native Weldon Harris.” “My read on that monument is that it was done for atonement.” As the descendants of the family planned a reunion last year, research found Harris’ great-grandfather, Handy White, was born a slave around 1832 and is one of the “faithful slaves” honored on the white stone. Harris said he sees the monument as unique to Blacks who were slaves and survived enslavement.


A federal judge late on Aug. 30 temporarily blocked most of Texas’ tough new “sanctuary cities” law that would have let police officers ask people during routine stops whether they’re in the U.S. legally and threatened sheriff’s deputies with jail time for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities, reports the Associated Press. The law, known as Senate Bill 4, had been cheered by President Donald Trump’s administration and was set to take effect Sept. 1. It was widely viewed as the toughest immigration measure in the nation since Arizona passed what critics called a “Show Me Your Papers” law in 2010, which was later partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio was handed down as anxieties about immigration enforcement in Texas have again flared in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey. Houston officials have sought to assure families fleeing the rising floodwaters in the nation’s fourth-largest city that shelters would not ask for their immigration status. Houston police Chief Art Acevedo, an outspoken critic of the law, got word of the decision while standing inside a downtown convention center where about 10,000 people have sought shelter. He high-fived another officer.



David A. Clarke Jr., the sometimes divisive Black supporter of President Trump who appeared to flirt with taking a senior role in the Homeland Security,  has resigned from his position as Milwaukee County sheriff, the county clerk said Aug. 31, reports the New York Times. The resignation was to take effect at the end of the day. “After almost 40 years serving the great people of Milwaukee County, I have chosen to retire to pursue other opportunities,” Clarke, who is leaving office with more than a year remaining in his term, said in a statement. A vocal proponent of gun rights,  Clarke rose to national attention last summer when he spoke at the Republican National Convention. His hard-line stances on law enforcement and association with the N.R.A. endeared him to the right and often brought him into conflict with the Black Lives Matter movement. He has called the Ferguson demonstrators “vultures on a roadside carcass” and once claimed that the Islamic State and Black Lives Matter activists were forming an alliance to destroy America. Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore responded: “David Clarke’s untimely departure as Milwaukee County Sheriff isn’t just a victory for Milwaukee, but for all of those whose rights and dignity were violated during his tenure. Joe Arpaio-like law enforcement figures like Clarke, who prioritize partisan fame over their constituents’ safety, have no place in our local or federal government. Rather than being a valuable voice in the national conversation over the strained relationship between police and the communities they serve, Clarke allowed his appetite for the spotlight to erode his credibility and weaken his authority as sheriff. As too many of my constituents can attest to, he cared more about his office looking bad than doing good. Milwaukee County deserved better… I call on Governor Walker to appoint a sheriff who will take their job seriously, value compassion over condescension, and put people before politics.”