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Year In Review


Jan 26

80-Year-Old New Orleans-area runner remains “perfect” at 30th annual Walt Disney World Marathon

  It’s one thing to run in all 30 Walt Disney World Marathons; it’s another thing to complete your latest at age 80.  That’s the story of Rudy Smith from Gretna, La. one of just 59 people who have achieved the feat of running in every Walt Disney World Marathon since the race was established in 1994, but the only octogenarian among them, having recently turned 80.

On a clear and warm Sunday morning, he finished the Disney 26.2-mile race, which took runners through all four Disney theme parks, in a little over seven hours.

  “Always have to focus on the finish,” he said. “So you take each mile as it comes and whittle it down until you get to the finish.”

  To celebrate the achievement, Disney gifted Smith and all the “perfect” runners with a commemorative pennant that was on display on the course.

  It is just one more running accomplishment for Smith, an avid marathoner who didn’t take up distance running until his 40s. Smith has run a marathon on every continent, run one on the Great Wall of China and has even run races twice up the Empire State Building plus one in Antarctica. He also completed all six major world marathons after finishing the Berlin Marathon this past September.

Travel back in time with “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum

  The exhibition reveals how the handbook provided African-American travelers with information on restaurants, gas stations, department stores and other businesses that welcomed them during the era of Jim Crow.

  The Negro Motorist Green Book, an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with award-winning author, photographer, and cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor, came to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, just in time for Black History Month. The exhibition opened on Jan. 29 and ran through April 23.

  “The Green Book,” first published in 1936 under the title “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was created for the growing African-American middle class who had the desire and financial means to travel the country but were restricted from many of the resources and accommodations necessary. Social and legal constraints, including unwelcoming hotels, restaurants, and gas stations along with Jim Crow era laws and “sundown towns” – communities where African-Americans were legally barred from spending the night – were very prevalent in many places across America.

  The book provided Black customers with a guide to hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and cultural attractions that would accept their business. Often these resources were themselves Black-owned and operated. In Chicago, “The Green Book” mostly directed travelers to listings located in the South Side community of Bronzeville, which was built by the Black migrants who transformed the Chicago area during the Great Migration. Of the over 180 businesses listed in Chicago, nearly 80% were in the Bronzeville District, an area that was considered a mecca for Black manufacturing, hair care, publishing, and banking industries.

 Published annually by Victor Hugo Green (1892–1960), a New Yorker who retired from his work as a mailman due to the book’s success and expanded into the travel reservation business, “The Green Book” was a vital handbook for decades.

  Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, predecessor of the exhibition’s national sponsor ExxonMobil, played a significant role in the distribution of “The Green Book” through its U.S. network of Esso stations, helping to provide motorists and their families opportunities for safer and more comfortable travel. Esso stations were the only major retail distributors of “The Green Book,” and the company also employed many African-American engineers, scientists and marketing executives, and welcomed Black motorists at its stations.

  The Negro Motorist Green Book offers viewers an opportunity to travel back in time through the perspective of the traveler, with an immersive and participatory exhibit. Viewers will experience the reality of travel for African-Americans in mid-century America and how the annual guide served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising African-American middle class.

  The exhibition, through artifacts, historic footage, and firsthand accounts, expresses not only the apprehension felt by African-American travelers, but also the resilience, innovation and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence. It will bring focus to a vibrant parallel world of African-American businesses, the rise of the Black leisure class in the United States, and the important role “The Green Book” played in facilitating the second wave of the Great Migration.


Free King Day admission at 

the National Civil Rights Museum

 The event is designed to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, and legacy and to highlight how the museum honors him and the Movement every day.

 Thanks to FedEx, the celebration includes free admission to the museum during extended hours from 8am to 6pm.

Dr. King stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”

The Museum will continue its commitment to a day of service by encouraging guests to bring nonperishable food items to support the Mid-South Food Bank to support area constituents in need.

  The museum annually partners with Vitalant to host a blood drive to address urgent supply shortages. Guests who donate blood at Vitalant locations this week and onsite at the museum on Jan. 16 receive express museum admission and free admission.

  Guests will enjoy engagement and entertainment in the museum’s courtyard. Main Stage performances, sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund, will feature local artists including Karen Brown, Gerald Richardson, the Stax Music Academy Satellite Band, the Grizzlies Drumline, and Cordova High School Choir.

  Inside The Pavillion, sponsored by Wells Fargo, there will be a wide range of children and family activities like face painting, magic shows, African drumming, and balloon art. Home Depot will supply and demonstrate children’s craft kits. Several community organizations will provide essential resources. Tennessee Arts Council is also a supporting sponsor.

  Visitors should pack their patience as the museum’s visitor parking lot will be closed starting January 12 as set up for the holiday festivities is underway. On-street parking and public parking lots are available off campus. On the holiday, street closures will allow for pedestrian-only traffic around the campus, and security checks will be posted at campus entry points.

March 2

Salesforce supports Black nonprofits

  Non-Profit organizations that work for the community will never go unnoticed by the people who benefit from them.

 Nonprofits are essential to surviving and providing for many families, especially those in low-income communities. While their work is appreciated and valued, many struggle financially to keep their doors open and provide the same support over time. Salesforce has taken on this issue and decided to be part of the solution.

  Salesforce created the Catalyst Fund, which grants $100,000 each to 20 nonprofits.

  “We think about change and where that change occurs. With this second round of funding, we targeted 10 Black-led organizations to support them and their great work,” Salesforce VP of Philanthropy, Dr. Ron Smith said. “They only get 4% of the funding but make up 10% of the non-profits, which shows the disconnect. They have the greatest need, and there is a huge gap, and Salesforce wanted to step in and help.”

  One non-profit that is benefitting from the funding is The Hidden Genius Project.

  “We were honored to receive one of those grants because it let us increase our capacity internally and allowed us to provide professional development for our staff, youth, and educators and help support 200 geniuses and 280 alumni,” said Kayla Mason, Hidden Genius Project regional director of the western U.S.

The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities. Smith explains why The Hidden Genius Project was chosen for the Catalyst Funding.


Qualified immunity

American history and police brutality share a racist parallel. The first police officers were called “slave patrols” and were rebranded after slavery ended in the north.

  The connection is still apparent in some modern-day police force activities as many cops do not face consequences for their racist actions.

“There’s not enough understanding in the Black community as to what ‘qualified immunity’ is. It doesn’t shield police officers from civil lawsuits.” Angela Powell said as she explained the importance of knowing the difference between immunity and qualified immunity. “When you sue a police officer, qualified immunity is a defense the prosecutor has to make so the terms of his actions can be subject to the law.”

Powell is an attorney at law, a member of the California State Bar and admitted to the Bar of the United States District Courts in the Central and Eastern Districts of California and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She shared that if an officer uses deadly force that goes against the law, they will not be protected.

Qualified immunity applies only to government officials in civil litigation. It is a legal principle that grants those officials performing discretionary functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.”

American civil rights activist and lawyer Constance L. Rice was also on the interview call and argued that qualified immunity is a policy that the Supreme Court has to fix.

“The Supreme Court has messed up the use of qualified immunity, and it shows with the George Floyd case that Derek Chauvin would have gotten qualified immunity if the family didn’t settle,”  Rice said, “Even if you got qualified immunity changed, so it didn’t shield the most egregious cases, it would take care of only 3% of the problems we see.”

Rice, who is also the co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project in Los Angeles, stated the problem goes far beyond qualified immunity or de-escalation training because it’s a system that needs changing.

Hydee Feldstein Soto, Los Angeles City Attorney, also pointed out that police officers are protected differently at every level of the system.

Honda Battle of the Bands 

returns to celebrate HBCU culture

Thousands of fans, students and alumni converged upon Alabama State University (ASU) on Saturday, Feb. 18 to take part in the 18th Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase (HBOB).

The annual event is recognized as the premire showcase for historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) marching bands and drill teams.

  Marking its return to a live event format for the first time since 2020, HBOB also was held for the first time on an HBCU campus, featuring spectacular performances from six marching bands representing HBCUs.

  This year’s HBOB theme, “Driving the Legacy,” celebrated the distinct culture and heritage of HBCUs, honoring HBCU traditions and the important role these institutions play in providing higher education and opportunities for advancement to the Black community.

  ASU alumnus and legendary comedian Rickey Smiley hosted the HBOB live event, while Emmy and two-time NAACP Image Award-winning host, comedian, and Prairie View A&M University alumna Loni Love hosted the HBOB livestream.

  The six HBCU marching bands that performed in the 2023 HBOB Invitational Showcase included Alabama State University, Mighty Marching Hornets seventh appearance; Langston University, Marching Pride fourth appearance; Morgan State University, Magnificent Marching Machine first appearance; Savannah State University, Powerhouse of the South seventh appearance; Texas Southern University, Ocean of Soul third appearance; and Virginia State University, Trojan Explosion tenth appearance.

The Invitational Showcase provided these marching bands with a national platform to display their talent, both live and streamed online. Each of the six bands received an all-expenses-paid trip to the HBOB Invitational Showcase. Building on Honda’s long standing support for HBCUs, each of the six participating universities also received a $50,000 grant from Honda to support their music education and career development programs.

Over 200 Alabama high school 

students walk out of class

Students at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa told WBMA-TV they were “ordered to leave out major historical moments, including slavery and the civil rights movement,” from the school program scheduled for 

this year.

  “We were told we couldn’t talk about slavery and civil rights because one of our administrators felt uncomfortable,” Black History Month Program board member J’Niyah Suttle told WBMA.

  Suttle, a senior at Hillcrest High, expressed that the direction given by a school administrator was very concerning.

  “For you to tell me I can’t talk about something that is dealing with my culture is very disturbing, it’s very confusing,” Suttles said.

  Another Hillcrest senior, Jada Holt, expressed similar sentiments.

  “Why am I being censored about my culture, something that is rooted in me? Why can’t I talk about it? History is history and it’s already been made, and it can’t be erased,” she said.

  Senior Jamiyah Brown, who helped put the program together, organized the walkout, which lasted about an hour.

  “Without our history we are nothing. Without teaching our youth where we come from, how can we move forward?” Brown said.

  Superintendent of Tuscaloosa County, Dr. Keri Johnson, refuted claims that an administrator told the students to omit historical details.

  “It is not true that faculty or staff told students that slavery or the civil rights movement could not be part of the program,” Johnson said in a statement according to WBMA-TV. “When several community members heard this and contacted Hillcrest High administration out of concern, the administration explained to them that this was false information that was circulating.”

  Johnson added that the school system supports the students’ right to demonstrate peacefully.

The president of the Tuscaloosa Branch of the NAACP, Lisa Young, called the alleged instructions given to students a disgrace.

  “I don’t know how you can talk about Black history in this country without talking about slavery or the civil rights movement,” Young said.

  She said she has asked to meet with Johnson but has yet to be given a date.

March 14

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls girls’ poisoning ‘unforgivable’ after public anger

  Iran’s supreme leader said on Monday that the poisoning of schoolgirls is an “unforgivable” crime that should be punished.

 ­  Over 1,000 girls have fallen ill after being poisoned since November, according to state media and officials, with some politicians blaming religious groups opposed to girls’ education.

  The poisonings have come at a critical time for Iran’s clerical rulers after months of protests since the death of a young woman held by police for flouting hijab rules.

  “Authorities should seriously pursue the issue of students’ poisoning,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by state TV. “If it is proven deliberate, those perpetrators of this unforgivable crime should be sentenced to capital punishment.”

  The poisonings began in November in the holy Shi’ite Muslim city of Qom and spread to 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces, prompting some parents to take children out of school and protest.

  Authorities have accused the Islamic Republic’s “enemies” of using the attacks to undermine the clerical establishment. But suspicions have fallen on hardline groups operating as self-declared guardians of their interpretation of Islam.

  In Washington, President Joe Biden’s press secretary called the poisonings shameful on Monday.

  “The possibility that girls in Iran are being possibly poisoned simply for trying to get an education is shameful, it’s unacceptable,” Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing.

  The White House called for an independent investigation to determine if the poisonings were related to protests, which would make it well within the mandate of the United Nations fact-finding mission on Iran.

  In 2014, people took to the streets of the city of Isfahan after a wave of acid attacks, which appeared to be aimed at terrorizing women who violated the strict Islamic dress code.

  For the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, schoolgirls have been joining the protests that spiraled after Mahsa Amini’s death in morality police custody.

  Some activists have accused the establishment of orchestrating the poisonings in revenge.

May 17

Man surrenders in strangulation 

of New York City subway rider

A U.S. Marine veteran who placed an agitated New York City subway passenger in a chokehold, killing him and sparking outrage as video of the encounter went viral, surrendered on a manslaughter charge.

Daniel Penny, 24, was freed pending trial hours after turning himself in at a police station and appearing in court to answer criminal charges in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely, a former subway performer with a history of mental illness. Penny did not enter a plea.

Neely’s death prompted protests, while others embraced Penny as a vigilante hero. His lawyers have said he was acting in self-defense. Lawyers for Neely’s family said Neely wasn’t harming anyone and didn’t deserve to die. An autopsy ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to compression of the neck.

A judge authorized Penny’s release on $100,000 bond and ordered him to surrender his passport and not to leave New York without approval. Prosecutors said they are seeking a grand jury indictment. Penny is due back in court.

  Penny didn’t speak to reporters. At a brief arraignment, Penny faced straight ahead, his hands cuffed. He spoke softly, offering one-word answers to Judge Kevin McGrath as his lawyer, Steve Raiser, placed an arm around his shoulder. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

  Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, said Neely had been making threats and “scaring passengers” when Penny approached him from behind and placed him in a chokehold. Penny “continued to hold Mr. Neely in the chokehold for several minutes,” even after he stopped moving, Steinglass said.

  A freelance journalist who recorded Neely struggling to free himself, then lapsing into unconsciousness, said he had been shouting at passengers and begging for money aboard the train but had not gotten physical with anyone. Penny pinned Neely to the floor of the subway car with the help of two other passengers and held him in a chokehold.

  Neely’s death has raised an uproar over many issues, including how the city treats people with mental illness, as well as crime, race and vigilantism. Police questioned Penny, who is White, in the aftermath but released him without charges. Neely was Black.

  Thomas Kenniff, a lawyer for Penny, said he didn’t mean to harm Neely and is dealing with the situation with the “integrity and honor that is characteristic of who he is and characteristic of his honorable service in the United States Marine Corps.”

  Donte Mills, a lawyer for Neely’s family, disputed Penny’s version of events, saying the veteran “acted with indifference. He didn’t care about Jordan, he cared about himself. And we can’t let that stand.”

May 24

Sen. Tim Scott announces 

campaign for White House

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination Monday morning in North Charleston, S.C.

  The senator, who has represented South Carolina in the Senate since 2013, portrays himself as a true conservative with a positive story to tell.

  “We need a president who persuades not just our friends and our base,” he told supporters in his hometown. “We have to have compassion for people who don’t agree with us. We have to believe that our ideas are so strong and so powerful and so persuasive that we can actually take it to the highest points in the world and be successful but we also have to be able to take it all the way down to places that today are hopeless and prove that who we are works for all Americans.”

  As for his own upbringing, being raised by a single mother, Scott says they found strength in faith and family and a determination to succeed — all things he accused Democrats of working to destroy.

  “From the time the sun goes down until the sun comes up, Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every single rung of the ladder that helped me climb. And that’s why I’m announcing today that I am running for president of the United States of America,” he said.

  In his 40-minute announcement speech, Scott highlighted his rise from poverty to prosperity and said that America is not a racist country. Scott is the only Black Republican senator in the U.S. Senate.

  In defending the founding fathers of this country, Scott told his audience: “We need to stop canceling our founding fathers and start celebrating them for the geniuses that they were. They weren’t perfect, but they believed that we could become a more perfect union.”


Cherelle Parker wins Democratic 

Mayoral primary in Philadelphia

Former Pennsylvania state representative and Philadelphia City Council member Cherelle  Parker has won the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia mayor.

  If she wins the general election in November, she will become the first Black woman to lead the city. Her campaign has been controversial as she  has run on a ‘promise to increase the number of police in the racially segregated city,’ and bring back constitutional “stop-and-frisk.” Parker, 50, is the only Black candidate and appears to have a great chance of  becoming mayor, as Philadelphia is more than 40% Black, according  to the New York Times.

  Still, many have drawn comparison to New York’s Mayor Eric Adams,  who, though Black, has supported what some deem as harmful legislation that disproportionately criminalizes Black and Brown people. However, the excitement around what Parker’s win could mean that Black womens opportunities in politics have not been dimmed.

  “It’s really exciting because it’s another glass ceiling that’s broken.  Women and Black women especially have always been underappreciated,” said Catherine Hicks, president of the Philadelphia  chapter of the NAACP. Among some of Parker’s other campaign promises are a proposition to extend school days from 7:30 a.m. to 6  p.m. and a plan to work with state leaders to significantly increase the  minimum wage.

  Parker claims that her plans to tackle issues are focused on the  “middle neighborhoods”—working and middle-class areas that have  been struggling in recent years to hold off decline—insisting that she is  simply responding to what she’s been told from the community.

  “They  know it’s not Cherelle engaging in what I call ‘I know what’s best for you people’ policymaking, but it’s come from the ground up,” Parker said. She believes that solutions should come from the  people of Philadelphia and “not people thinking they’re coming in to  save poor people, people who never walked in their shoes or lived in a  neighborhood with high rates of violence and poverty. I’ve lived that.”

May 31

Amanda Gorman poem banned 

at Miami-Dade elementary school

A Miami-Dade elementary school has effectively banned Amanda Gorman’s presidential inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb,” after a parent complained that it contained indirect “hate messages.”

  Gorman, 25, who gained national prominence after she recited her poem at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration, took to Twitter on May 23 to denounce the school’s actions.

  “I’m gutted,” the poet wrote in a lengthy Twitter statement, before saying that censored books are often authored by people “who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves,” most of whom are “queer and non-White.”

  “I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,” Gorman wrote. “Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by “The Hill We Climb” to write their own poems. Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”

  Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) tweeted in support of Gorman, quoting from “The Hill We Climb.”

“But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated,” Frost quoted, before writing, “We will fight and we will prevail.”

  According to documents released by the Florida Freedom to Read Project and first reported by The Miami Herald, the book was restricted at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes after one parent complained in March that it “is not educational and has indirectly [sic] hate messages.” The same parent complained about four other books: “The ABCs of Black History,” “Cuban Kids,” “Countries in the News: Cuba,” and “Love to Langston,” citing “indoctrination” and “CRT.” The complaint also misidentified Oprah Winfrey as the author of “The Hill We Climb.”

  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a slate of new educational laws, including a requirement for schools to pull challenged books within five days of a complaint while officials determine if the material should be permanently banned.

  In a tweet after publication, the Miami-Dade school district stated that the book wasn’t banned and remains “available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”

June 7

North Carolina’s Fort Bragg 

is renamed Fort Liberty

 North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, named after Confederate Army Gen. Braxton Bragg, was officially redesignated to Fort Liberty on Friday.

  The renaming ceremony was part of a national campaign to change the names of nine U.S. Army installations, as recommended by the Department of Defense’s Naming Commission to erase symbols that commemorate the Confederate States of America.

  Last month, the U.S. Army base formerly known as Fort Hood in central Texas was changed to Fort Cavazos and Georgia’s Fort Benning was renamed to Fort Moore. Fort Lee was renamed Fort Gregg-Adams in April, with more changes to come.

  While the previously renamed bases were chosen to honor past soldiers or Army families, Fort Liberty was named after no one person.

  “Every name was considered, debated. … Ultimately, any of them could have been chosen,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, the XVIII Airborne Corps’ commanding general. “A consensus could not be reached on just one. How could you choose any and leave any of those others behind? … There was no right name. There were no names that could define what this post is all about.”

  Among the names considered by the community team tasked with renaming the base were Medal of Honor recipients past and present, including Sergeant Alvin York and Sergeant Robert J. Miller.

Donahue detailed that names were considered from soldiers from “all legendary tenant units,” including the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command and 18th Airborne Corps.

  The final decision on the new name was inspired when one of the American Gold Star Mothers, Patti Elliot, brought up the theme of liberty.


June 14

National Civil Rights Museum 

to celebrate Juneteenth

The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 student visits annually, as a Community Day with free museum admission and museum Member Appreciation Day.

  This is the second year Juneteenth is observed as a federal holiday, and the museum welcomes all visitors to learn more about the origins and importance of the holiday and the stories of hard-fought freedom since its origin.

  Juneteenth dates back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldier, Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the American Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. This announcement was more than two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This population of Black Texans were denied their freedom on Jan. 1, 1863.

  The museum’s Juneteenth Community Day will allow everyone free admission to explore this American history that illustrates the resilience and contributions of Black Americans despite access to basic freedoms and equality. The goal is to focus on the continued struggle for civil and human rights that guarantee fundamental freedoms and to raise the consciousness of systemic racism with the desired outcome to reform race relations throughout our communities.

  The free Juneteenth Community Day admission is on a first-come basis and there is no advance reservation. Members will enjoy special benefits including expressed entry, a member gift, a museum store discount, and refreshments.

  The Juneteenth Community Day is made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund. For more information, visit

July 12

Student born with heart defect 

earns $2.5 million in scholarships

  Kyanna Woods, an African-American student from Concord, NC who was born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery as an infant, has graduated at the top of her class with scholarship offers of over $2.5 million from multiple universities.

  Born with two holes in her tiny heart, Kyanna underwent a life-saving open heart surgery when she was just 3 months old. Open heart surgery, a major surgical procedure performed to correct various cardiovascular conditions, can significantly impact an individual’s life beyond the immediate recovery period.

Despite the doctors’ warnings that she may face difficulties with walking, sports, and learning, Kyanna defied all odds. Not only did she excel academically but also in sports.

  Kyanna, who graduated as the valedictorian at Cabarrus Charter School in Concord, also recently earned her associate’s degree. She has so far received acceptance letters from 61 colleges including Xavier University, the University of South Carolina, Spelman College, and Appalachian State University.

  Her parents, William and Kourtney, expressed how proud they are of their daughter, who is often called a miracle child.

  “It’s just a blessing to see what she can do and what she has done,” her mom told WCNC.

  Kyanna attributes her incredible achievements to her unwavering faith and the support of her loving family. “They are super important. I love all of them to death,” Kyanna said. “They are my unwavering cheerleaders when I need the motivation.”

  Meanwhile, Kyanna chose to attend the Xavier University of Louisiana, an HBCU, where she will pursue her pre-med studies in psychology, courtesy of the valedictorian scholarship.

July 26

Black residents In Evanston, Ill 

will finally receive reparations

The town of Evanston, Ill., will be the first city in the U.S. to keep its promise of paying reparations to Black residents.

  The Chicago suburb expects to give $25,000 each to almost 140 residents by the end of the year, Newsweek reports. A memo from Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager, claims the city has already met with 48 eligible recipients and 16 of them have received payments. Most of the recipients are elderly residents like 88-year-old retired postal worker Louis Weathers. To qualify, residents needed to have resided in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and been victims of discrimination in housing or be a direct descendant of a Black person who did.

  Weathers was a native of the city’s historic Black Fifth Ward until 1969 when he was able to move to a more predominantly White neighborhood due to law changes. The Korean War veteran said he needed to threaten to file a complaint to the real estate board just to get the agent to allow them to sign a sales contract for him and his wife to buy a house.

Reparation talk at the federal level has been stalled for years but during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, things started to move again. For the city of Evanston, this has been a work in progress since 2019 after committing to spending $10 million over the next 10 years toward local reparations. Two years later, the program was approved for eligible Black residents to receive housing grants for down payments, repairs, or existing mortgages in order to fix the city’s past racist housing policies.

  The reparations program is being funded through a 3% tax on recreational marijuana and a real estate transfer tax. According to News Nation Now, a little over $1 million in revenue has been generated so far.

Officials at the front of the reparations fight feel like this move by the town is a great example for others to follow. “I see it as like a test run for the whole country,” Justin Hansford, head of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University, said.

  California has been in the news for months in its fight for reparations for Black residents. In January, the San Francisco Reparations Committee advocated for a payback program with the recommended sum of $5 million each.

Neighborhood ‘redlining’ places 

Blacks in danger of heart failure

Redlining neighborhoods and communities affects more than what school your children go to.

  A new study from American Heart Association’s journal Circulation showed that Black adults living in areas affected by discriminatory housing practices like redlining are at high risk for heart failure.

  The analysis, published as part of the journal’s “Disparities in Cardiovascular Medicine Special Issue,” studied more than two million adults between 2014-2019 who lived in various communities with redlining issues beginning in the mid-1930s.

  After an analysis was conducted, an estimated half of residents’ conditions can be explained by high levels of socioeconomic distress.

  Research on these issues has gone on for years. Past studies show Black redlining residents are at higher risk for stroke, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes. Heart failure was recently added to the list which disproportionately impacts Black adults, according to the 2023 Statistical Update by AHA.

Study co-senior author, Shreya Rao, M.D., M.P.H., said these studies show how the past is still affecting us today. “Although discriminatory housing policies were effectively outlawed nearly a half-century ago, the relationship between historic redlining practices and people’s health today gives us unique insight into how historical policies may still be exerting their effects on the health of many communities,” Rao said.

  According to CNN, financial institutions were openly engaging in racist lending practices in the early 1930s. Banks would deny loans and insurance to Black people hoping to purchase houses outside undesirable areas of cities. The process was dubbed “redlining,” a color-coding system for neighborhoods across the country based on “risk for investment,” deemed red areas, which were predominantly Black communities. Although it was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, redlining created unfair practices for future generations.

  When it comes to White adults living in redlining zones, the study found they aren’t at much risk for health issues.

Aug. 9

Former officers plead guilty 

in botched raid of home

 Six White former law enforcement officers in Mississippi who called themselves the “Goon Squad” pleaded guilty to an assault on two Black men in a home raid that ended with an officer shooting one man in the mouth.

  The officers entered the house without a warrant on Jan. 24, assaulting the men with a sex object and using stun guns and other objects to abuse them over a roughly 90-minute period, court documents show. After one victim was shot and wounded in a “mock execution” that went awry, the documents say the officers conspired to plant and tamper with evidence instead of providing medical aid.

  The Justice Department launched a civil rights probe in February. The Mississippi attorney general’s office announced it had filed state charges against the six former officers, including assault, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

  “The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, adding that they “egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect.”

  The civil rights charges come after an Associated Press investigation linked the deputies to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.

“It’s kind of a partnership in crime,” U.S. District Judge Tom Lee said about the conspiracy charges unsealed.

  Court documents said the officers took on the “Goon Squad” nickname “because of their willingness to use excessive force and not to report it.”

The two victims, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June seeking $400 million in damages. The bullet fired into Jenkins’ mouth lacerated his tongue and broke his jaw, then exited his neck.

  Those charged in the case are five former Rankin County Sheriff’s Department employees — Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke — and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield, who was off duty when he participated in the raid.

  Federal marshals took the former officers into custody last week. The judge said the men will be sentenced in mid-November.

  The documents identified Elward as the person who shot Jenkins, and Opdyke and Dedmon as the ones who assaulted the two men with the sex object.

Aug. 23

Student group may have to change its name

A student organization at Tallahassee Community College is grappling with a naming predicament due to a new Florida law.

  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 266 into law in May. It aims to prohibit colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs.

  According to BBC World Services, the new law prohibits student-led organizations that advocate for DEI from receiving state or federal funding.

  Now, the Black Male Achievers may need to remove “Black” from its official title or risk losing its funding.

Student Tyler Soto told BBC the group is working out possible new names, such as “Male Achievers” or “Scholar Male Achievers.”

  “This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda and that is wrong,” DeSantis said, according to NBC Miami. “In fact, if you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination, and that has no place in our public institutions.”

Black Wall Street Festival 

returns to New Haven, Conn.

The recent New Haven Black Wall Street Festival, produced by the Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism in partnership with The Breed Entertainment, was a gathering to highlight Black and brown business owners and creatives. Organizers consider the annual event as a catalyst for action toward dismantling systemic racism in New Haven, Conn. and a strategy to revitalize Black and brown economic wealth across the city.

  The family-friendly event featured live music and performances from local youth groups such as the Elite Drill Team, Wolfpack Drum Squad, the Monk Youth Jazz Ensemble, and STEAM Collective.

  Aspiring entrepreneurs visited the “empowerment tent” for inspiration. There will also be a designated space for members of the Divine Nine to network with one another. New Haven Director of Cultural Affairs, Adriane Jefferson, spoke to the multiple purposes for the festival.

  “It’s a celebration. It’s a time for us to come together as a community. But it’s also cultural preservation. It is cultural equity. It is being able to tell our stories our way, through our mouths, and to celebrate together. “

  Following the inaugural event’s success in 2022, the second annual Black Wall Street Festival came in almost four times larger.

  The term Black Wall Street honors the legacy of the Black Business districts that appeared throughout America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, like the Greenwood district of Tulsa, OK. The community predominantly consisted of Black-owned homes and businesses.

  The once-bustling community was destroyed by an angry mob of racists in 1921. Other Black Wall Streets included the Jackson War district in Richmond, Va., Sweet Auburn in Atlanta, Ga., another in Harlem, NY, and Farish Street in Jackson, Miss. These communities were dissolved through covert tactics like redlining and gentrification.

Sept. 20

Florida Black churches vow 

to teach ‘our own history’

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, Fla. is among the more than 200 mostly Black churches in that state taking steps to teach Black history in part because of what faith leaders call the restricted and “watered-down” versions schools must teach under the state’s new policies. Instead, pastors equipped with a new Black history toolkit are teaching unfiltered lessons during Sunday school, Bible Study or as part of sermons.

  Faith in Florida, a coalition of churches advocating for social justice causes, created the online toolkit, which includes books, documentaries and videos related to Black history. The project, launched in July, aims to push back against state efforts to regulate Black history lessons. Florida is one of several states where mostly conservative lawmakers are leading movements to restrict some teachings of Black history.

  “We have a responsibility as a whole to make sure our history is not erased or watered down and that it be told,” said Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida. “It happened. It’s history.”

  This is not a new role for Black churches, which have long filled education gaps in their communities, historians said. But many said these lessons are needed now as much as ever.

  “It’s not farfetched to think that a (Black) church is going to be able to provide educational opportunities where they see public institutions failing,” Howard Robinson, a historian at Alabama State University in Montgomery, said.

  Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has led efforts across the state to embrace policies that restrict how certain topics, including race, sexuality and gender, are taught in schools and colleges.

  Earlier in the year, DeSantis signed legislation that banned the use of state funds to support diversity and inclusion programs at public universities. “This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda and that is wrong,” he said in May.

  Florida also banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement African-American Studies course. Advanced placement studies are college-level courses taught to high school students who can often earn college credit. State officials have said African-American history is already taught in schools. They’ve said some of the course material violates state law and take issue with the inclusion of lessons on the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, Black feminism and reparations.


Sept. 20

Nation recalls horror of 

16th Street Baptist Church

Four innocent young girls getting ready for Sunday services died when the Ku Klux Klan detonated a devastating bomb inside Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church 60 years ago. Today, as the nation commemorates the somber 60th anniversary of that fateful Sept. 15, 1963, day, two remarkable women, Lisa McNair, and Tammie Fields, stand united not only by their shared tragedy but also by their unwavering message to combat hate.

  McNair’s sister, Denise, was one of the four girls who tragically died in the bombing. In contrast, Fields’ father, Charles Cagle, was initially questioned as a potential suspect in the horrific church bombing but was never charged. Decades after this devastating event, the two women crossed paths at a Black History Month event, forging a seemingly improbable connection and an enduring friendship.

  Despite being born on opposite sides of one of the most heinous events of the civil rights movement, McNair and Fields shared a common goal: To speak out against hate. As the nation reflects on the 60th anniversary of this tragic event, McNair implored people to remember what transpired and contemplate how to prevent such hatred from rearing its head again.

  “People killed my sister just because of the color of her skin,” McNair passionately declared in an interview with the Associated Press. “Don’t look at this anniversary as just another day. Instead, consider what each of us can do individually to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

  The explosion occurred when dynamite, surreptitiously placed outside the 16th Street Baptist Church underneath a set of stairs, exploded. The four girls, aged 11 to 14, were assembled in a downstairs washroom before Sunday services when the devastating blast occurred. Tragically, 11-year-old Denise McNair and her friends, 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, all perished in the explosion. A fifth girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, Addie Mae’s sister, was also in the room and sustained severe injuries, including losing an eye.

  The vile act of violence took place during the zenith of the civil rights movement, just eight months after then-Gov. George Wallace defiantly proclaimed, “segregation forever.” It occurred a mere two weeks following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. Three Ku Klux Klansmen were convicted in connection with the bombing: Robert Chambliss in 1977, Thomas Blanton in 2001, and Bobby Frank Cherry in 2002.

September 27

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson 

switches from Democrat to GOP

  Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a longtime Democrat, is now a Republican–turning Dallas into the largest city in the country with a GOP mayor.

  “Today I am changing my party affiliation,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed published Sept. 22 in The Wall Street Journal. “Next spring, I will be voting in the Republican primary. When my career in elected office ends in 2027 on the inauguration of my successor as mayor, I will leave office as a Republican.”

Johnson served in the Texas Legislature for nine years as a Democrat before he was elected as Dallas mayor in 2019. Though the mayor’s position is technically nonpartisan, Johnson joins Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker as one of two Republican mayors to lead a major Texas city.

  Johnson’s switch came as little shock to Dallas political observers, who said he has been signaling for some time his leaning toward the GOP — and his distancing from Democrats.

  “This is one of the worst kept secrets in the world of politics,” said Vinny Minchillo, a Dallas-area Republican consultant. “This has been coming down for a long time.”

  State Rep. John Bryant, a Dallas Democrat, took to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to quip about Johnson’s announcement.

“Switching parties? I didn’t know he was a Democrat,” Bryant wrote.

  In his op-ed, Johnson made the case for how his vision for Dallas aligns with the GOP, noting his support for law enforcement, low property taxes and fostering a business-friendly environment.

  Over the course of his mayoral tenure, Johnson has enthusiastically backed anti-crime initiatives and developed a strong bond with Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia. He won reelection without opposition in May after sewing up the city’s business donor class, who often lean Republican, as well as the Dallas Police Association, the city’s police union.

  “Mayors and other local elected officials have failed to make public safety a priority or to exercise fiscal restraint,” Johnson wrote in the op-ed. “Most of these local leaders are proud Democrats who view cities as laboratories for liberalism rather than as havens for opportunity and free enterprise.”

  After his reelection this year, Johnson invited Texas’ two Republican U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, to attend his inauguration — which some observers complained improperly injected partisanship into a nonpartisan space.

  Last week, Johnson, along with four other Dallas council members, voted against the city’s $4.8 billion budget because he believed it did not sufficiently cut the city’s property tax rate. Cutting property taxes is a darling issue for the state’s top Republicans.

  “Too often, local tax dollars are spent on policies that exacerbate homelessness, coddle criminals and make it harder for ordinary people to make a living,” Johnson wrote in the op-ed. “And too many local Democrats insist on virtue signaling–proposing half-baked government programs that aim to solve every single societal ill–and on finding new ways to thumb their noses at Republicans at the state or federal level.”

 Johnson’s party switch immediately makes him one of the most prominent Black Republicans in the country, a list that also includes South Carolina senator and presidential candidate Tim Scott and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Black voters still vote overwhelmingly Democratic, though the GOP has made gains among Black men in recent years.

 Dallas is solidly Democratic, however. Dallas County went heavily for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, with Biden carrying the county by more than 30 percentage points. Some local politicians said Johnson’s decision puts him out of step with the city’s voters.

   October 4

Ohio Urban League unveils 

Holloman Center for Social Justice

  The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio —with support from the Holloman Family Foundation, and in collaboration with Fifth Third Bank —unveils the Holloman Center for Social Justice in Avondale Town Center to bridge the gap between the greater Cincinnati community and local law enforcement.

  The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio (ULGSO) has unveiled the Holloman Center for Social Justice (CSJ) in Avondale Town Center, following an inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony presented by Fifth Third Bank.

  Kala Gibson, executive vice president and chief corporate responsibility officer of Fifth Third Bank, said, “Our support for the Holloman Center for Social Justice reflects our unwavering dedication to creating a more just and equitable society for all. We want to ensure that social justice remains at the heart of a better future for the communities we serve.”

   An impressive $1 million gift from Black philanthropists, J. Phillip Holloman and his wife, Gail, underpins the new 10,000 square foot facility and was bolstered by support from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Senior Director of Community Relations at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Monica J. Mitchell, expressed her enthusiasm, noting, “The Hollomon Center for Social Justice, supports youth development, community programs, and diversity and social initiatives that are closely tied to physical and mental health outcomes in children and families.”

  Christie Kuhns, ULGSO president and CEO, acknowledged, “The generous contribution from  Phillip and Gail Holloman, fast-tracked our equity efforts. The Holloman Center symbolizes our unyielding devotion to social justice in historically underserved communities.” The center’s theme “From Protest to Policy Change” speaks to the Center’s goal of serving as a catalyst for collaborative police reform in Southwestern Ohio. The Center will focus on three key areas: policy change, community engagement and police department transparency.

  The center’s team will actively engage in policy advocacy, data collection and reporting, community education and organizing to advance racial equity in the region. The Center will also host various programs and events focused on health equity, voting rights and youth engagement.

October 11

Black historians defy Florida 

restrictions on Black studies

  Black historians read passages from banned books earlier this month in a local park in Florida.

  In Washington, D.C., Black members of Congress that same week hosted panels on preserving Black history at a conference.

  And in Pennsylvania, a 91-year-old pastor reached out to an expert in South Carolina to help his church set up Black history lessons.

  They are part of a growing movement across the country of educators, lawmakers, civil rights activists and church leaders who say there is a renewed urgency to teach Black history in the wake of a crackdown on Black scholars and inclusive lesson plans. The effort has seen historians share ways others can teach Black history, churches hold history classes during Bible study, film festivals showcase Black history work, and Black leaders in Congress have asked museums and local institutions to help in the campaign to preserve that history. 

  “There’s a movement across the country to suppress the teaching of Black history,” said Marvin Dulaney, president of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. “We have to meet that challenge head-on.”

  The push to teach more Black history comes as dozens of states, including Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, have adopted or proposed measures that critics say omit important parts of Black history or limit language related to race, sexuality and gender issues in public schools. Some have also banned books, many by Black authors that focus on race.

  “There’s urgency because these histories are under assault,” said Bobby Donaldson, an associate history professor at the University of South Carolina. “The battles in Florida and elsewhere remind us that it’s urgent that we do this work now.”

  Dulaney along with other historians and activists stood in a Jacksonville, Fla. park named after James Weldon Johnson, the late civil rights activist and composer, and read passages from banned books. There were readings from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver.

  “We’re sort of being proactive this year because of what we’re confronting here as well as in other places in the country,” Dulaney said.  He added that the efforts are part of the organization’s mission to accurately teach Black history. It was founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of Black History Month.

  “Teaching and studying and promoting Black history is not about trying to make White people and White children feel bad,” Dulaney said. “It’s just a part of American history. It’s also telling the truth that has been hidden for so long.”

  At least 21 states have introduced legislation this year to limit the teaching of “divisive” concepts or critical race theory in public schools and/or higher education institutions, according to Emily Ronco, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). At least 14 states passed legislation. Last year, at least 24 states considered such legislation, according to NCSL.

  The debate on how Black history is taught has largely centered on Florida because state officials also banned this year the College Board’s Advanced Placement African-American Studies course. State officials there have said African-American history is already taught in schools. They’ve said some course material violates state law and take issue with the inclusion of lessons on the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, Black feminism and reparations.

In July, Faith in Florida, a coalition of churches advocating for social justice issues, launched a Black history program offering an online toolkit that includes videos, books and other resources.

  Black churches have the power and responsibility to fill in gaps if educators don’t or won’t, said the Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida. She dismissed arguments that teaching comprehensive Black history could offend White children.

  “That was ridiculous considering that Black children and Black adults have been offended for years,” Thomas said. “And nothing was ever watered down nor erased.”