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  • 22 Dec 2015 4:40 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Politicians, celebrities and athletes prove headliners

    By Everything Underground

     

    A former world class surgeon, longtime entertainer and reigning champion were among those who provided the headlines for other top stories in 2015. Dr. Ben Carson, Bill Cosby and Serena Williams each provided plenty of material for newspapers, magazines and websites.

     

    Carson, a retired surgeon best known in the medical world for a revolutionary procedure that separated Siamese twins, had been a Fox News commentator and severe critic of President Obama's healthcare plan. But after a speech at which the President was a guest where Carson had plenty of negative things to say about both his program and the nation's direction as a whole, things caught fire.

     

    Carson was urged to run for the Republican Presidential nomination by several conservative groups, and he entered the race as a longshot. At one point, he'd vaulted all the way into the number two spot, but then his momentum stalled, in part due to a curious decision to suspend his campaign for a book-signing tour. He also made highly controversial comments throughout the summer about Muslims, abortion, Black Lives Matter and Syrian refugees.

     

    Though no longer in the second spot with winter approaching, Carson is still very much a part of the GOP process. The gap between him and the front-runner Donald Trump is much wider today than at his peak of popularity during the summer, but he remains among the top six candidates vying for the nomination.

     

    Bill Cosby had been widely viewed since the '60s as a beloved celebrity, a father figure to many due to the influence of his '80s sitcom "The Cosby Show." But old charges evolved into a host of new ones in 2015, with more than 50 women emerging at various times to accuse him of everything from improper conduct to borderline rape.

     

    Cosby's reputation plummeted. A planned comeback show on NBC and birthday/anniversary celebration on Netflix were cancelled. Some 30 institutions revoked honorary degrees they had previously given him, though his Emmy awards, Mark Twain prize and Medal of Freedom at this point seem safe.

     

    His defenders insist that he's being railroaded, and claims against at least two of his accusers have been the stuff of online fervor. But in 2016, Cosby faces at least one deposition, and there are also ongoing attempts to force his wife Camille to be deposed as well.

     

    Serena Williams came within two matches of being the first person to win all four world titles within the calendar year, the "Grand Slam." She did achieve her second "Serena Slam," holding at one point the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles simultaneously until her loss at Forest Hills.

     

    Williams ended the year being named "Sportsperson of the Year" by Sports illustrated. Simone Biles, the most dominant gymnast in history, took a third straight world title and was selected the Olympic Athlete of the Year. Floyd Mayweather concluded (at least for now) an undefeated boxing campaign, retiring without trying to break Rocky Marciano's record. He settled instead for tying it.

     

    Lester Holt became the first Black man since Max Robinson to anchor a weeknight network broadcast as he took over the reins at the NBC Nightly News. South African export Trevor Noah took over the "Daily Show" hosting duties from the beloved Jon Stewart.

     

    Black films had perhaps their greatest year from a commercial standpoint. Whether it was the N.W.A. biopic "Straight Outta Compton," the faith-based "War Room" or the coming-of-age youth vehicle "Dope," it was suddenly no surprise to see a Black-themed production atop the box office.

     

    It was also a big year for Blacks on TV, with Fox's "Empire" breaking records in its first season, and "Black-Ish" the pivotal new sit-com. While there's still no exactly a flood of dramas or serious works spotlighting Blacks, there's definitely more Black faces everywhere, and Shonda Rhimes became the first Black woman to ever head an entire night of programming thanks to the Thursday night power lineup of "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How To Get Away With Murder." 

     

    Lastly, Black Twitter's strength as the social media site of choice for young Black Americans was evident throughout 2015. While Facebook continues to be the dominant site in terms of dedicated users, Black Twitter was often the agenda setter.  

     

    There are so many hot button items and topics ahead in 2016, so there should be no shortage of things to discuss on Black Twitter. 

  • 22 Dec 2015 4:13 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Historic appointment

    By Everything Underground

     

    President Obama made his second historic choice for the nation's top legal position last November, when he nominated Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General. Eric Holder had been the first Black in that spot. Lynch would become the second and first Black woman in that office.

     

    But despite a stellar record as a prosecutor, Lynch's confirmation did not run all that smoothly. She was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee February 26, but the appointment did not reach the Senate for almost two months. 

     

    During that time, Lynch faced rigorous questioning from  eight Republicans on the Committee, including chairman Chuck Grassley. These eight would eventually oppose the nomination. Grassley's justification in delaying a vote was that he wanted more information regarding the settling of a $1.9 billion money-laundering deal brokered when she was United State Attorney in New York.

     

    Another Senator claimed that Lynch had been delinquent in her duties by not finding about separate but related documents.  But she was ultimately confirmed April 23, after cloture was invoked on the nomination by a 66-34 vote. She was confirmed that day by a vote of 56-43. The process from the time she was nominated until confirmation took 166 days, among the longest in history.

     

    During her tenure, Lynch has faced tough issues regarding domestic and international terrorism and police misconduct. She's made trips to Baltimore and Cleveland, gotten the Department of Justice involved in investigations of police departments in three cities, and issued public statements and rulings regarding campaigns against terrorists and white nationalist organizations.  

     

    An area where it seemed, at least during the hearings, as though her position was a bit different from her predecessor was in immigration. Lynch did not come down in favor of blanket amnesty, but a gradual path to citizenship. She did reject calls for the DOJ to go after Planned Parenthood for allegedly selling human tissue and body parts.

     

    The Attorney General's office will be monitoring the on-going trials in Baltimore and Chicago as they unfold, while also pushing for tighter controls on gun sales and a crackdown on illegal weapons purchases.

     

    No change is expected in the current push regarding medical marijuana, something that the Administration has not yet been inclined to support. But there have been a number of sentence reductions and/or clemency issued in drug cases. There was also finally a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson, the nation's first Black heavyweight champion, who had been railroaded on bogus charges and died with a criminal record. 

     

     

     

  • 22 Dec 2015 3:39 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Protests erupt over police mistreatment

    By Everything Underground

     

    Police relations with Black communities have been problematic throughout the nation's history. But things seemed to worsen in 2015, particularly in many big cities.

     

    After Freddie Gray died in police custody under dubious circumstances in April, Baltimore became a hotbed of activity. The trial of William Porter, the first of multiple officers to be indicted for crimes in the Gray case, recently ended in a mistrial. But a June retrial date was announced, and at press time, there had been no outbreak of violence as a result of that verdict.

     

    There were also questionable shootings in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It took more than year for the footage of Laquan McDonald's shooting in Chicago to be publicly released, but the video of an officer shooting him 13 times on the ground (16 overall) triggered a murder indictment and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation.

     

    Unanswered questions also remain regarding the Tamir Rice case in Cleveland. The Justice Department issued a comprehensive and scatching report on the police department's performances in Ferguson and Cleveland, and is now investigating the Chicago police force.

     

    Chicago's chief was fired and its chief of detectives resigned in the weak of the McDonald footage being released. But there are plenty of questions remaining about that as well. For once, nearly a half hour of footage is missing, even though the manager of the Burger King that filmed the incident swears that he gave the footage to the police intact.

     

    Black Lives Matter organized huge protests in Chicago and Minneapolis during Thanksgiving, and had planned to do additional marches in Minneapolis during Christmas week. But Minnesota businessmen went to court and obtained an injunction to prevent that. A case was pending at press time regarding the merits of that injunction.

     

    An ugly undertone was also part of the Minnesota situation, as shots were fired two consecutive nights at peaceful demonstrators. Four white men were arrested for the first night's shooting, but no suspects has been arrested for the second night. 

     

    Discontent still looms in many cities, and statistics show that there were record numbers of unarmed citizens shot and/or killed by police in 2015, even as other information showed the number of police officers killed in the line of duty at a 10-year low.

     

    Incidents of gun violence were also a big problem, with shootings in such cities as Chicago and Baltimore on the rise. The inability of the police in these places to establish a rapport with community residents has also hindered any ability to remedy this situation.

     

    The outcome of trials in Chicago and Baltimore, as well as whatever finding is reached in the Rice case and that of Jamar Clark in Minnesota, will be very scrutinized in 2016.  

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 22 Dec 2015 3:21 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Roof's murders horrify nation

    By Everything Underground

     

    The South was forced to re-examine its stormy past after a crazed white teen Dylan Roof gunned down nine African-Americans in a historic South Carolina church. Roof claimed that he hoped to spark a race war, and it was discovered that he'd been a long time subscriber to various white nationalist publications.

     

    The June killing sparked national outrage, and also totally changed a debate that had been raging in South Carolina for decades regarding the use of Confederate symbols.

     

    The NAACP had been leading a boycott against the state dating back decades, trying to get them to move the Confederate flag off state property. That action had long been opposed by prominent white South Carolina politicians.

     

    But after an emotional funeral that saw President Obama not only come to the state for the funeral, but sing "Amazing Grace" before a worldwide audience, things began changing in a hurry. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, previously opposed to having the flag removed, publicly came out in favor of it and later signed legislation enacting it.

     

    The shootings also led officials in many other places, including some college campuses to revisit the issue regarding Confederate symbols. One of those was the campus at the University of Mississippi. The school's nickname (the Rebels) has been seen as a problem for coaches trying to recruit Black athletes, but there was no push to eliminate it.

     

    However, the Confederate flag at football and basketball games has now been officially outlawed. Even NASCAR, the South's foremost auto racing circuit, began asking fans not to bring rebel flags to events. They did not make it mandatory, but Confederate symbols were banned from any official NASCAR areas.

     

    The city of New Orleans is also talking about eliminating its Confederate statues in the square. Southern universities in Virginia, Tennessee and other states are also debating what to do with halls named after slaveholders or Confederate generals.  

     

    Sadly, it seems that nine deaths did what years of speeches, marches, protests and boycotts could not: get Confederate symbols off state property in several Southern states. 

  • 22 Dec 2015 2:10 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Black Lives Matter's impact increases

    By Everything Underground

     

    The Black Lives Matter movement initially emerged out of protests over the controversial killing of a Black youth in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer. But in 2015, it became the larger focal point for increased activism and protests nationally. 

     

    Black Lives Matter is now the rallying cry against police brutality, gun violence, the abuse of incarceration, poverty and numerous other issues all connected to the inability of African Americans to gain economic opportunity and be treated fairly in either the courts or by corporate America.

     

    Black Lives Matter representatives were familiar figures at campaign events featuring Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They were the catalyst that eventually forced the Democratic Party to hold forums and interviews that addressed inequality, voter suppression and police brutality. A Black Lives Matter demonstrator was even beaten at a Donald Trump rally.

     

    The organization also outraged conservative Black critics, even though Republican Presidential nominee Dr. Ben Carson, after first attacking the group, later acknowledged that they had raised legitimate concerns about police misconduct and mistreatment of Black Americans.

     

    Black Lives Matter has also resonated overseas, with demonstrations featuring that chant in Africa, South America and Europe. There have also been internal tensions within the established Black political universe.

     

    Some longtime Civil Rights leaders have been upset by what they see as a lack of respect and civility by BLM representatives, and an insistence on crowding them out or replacing them for younger, less seasoned individuals.

     

    What Black Lives Matter is doing is placing far more emphasis on personality and more on substance and issues. They are not only increasing the visibility and prominence of young people, but they are proclaiming that politics as usual will no longer be tolerated, and that this is truly a new day for activism and organizing.

     

    With a Presidential election looming this year, the stances and actions taken by Black Lives Matter will be watched even more closely in 2016. 

     

     

  • 22 Sep 2015 11:15 AM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    President speaks frankly on issues

    By Ron Wynn

     

    Throughout much of his administration, both supporters and critics of President Barack Obama have lamented what they see as an unwillingness to speak openly and frankly on tough issues, particularly matters of race.

     

    Even when he has done that, as when he commented on the Trayvon Martin situation by saying that might have been his son, or when he invited Professor Skip Gates to the White House following an incident at Gates' home in Cambridge with police, there were many who felt the gesture was more superficial than anything else.

     

    But in the last few months, the President has seemed energized and unafraid to be in the spotlight whenever there's a controversy. His appearance at a funeral for those slain in South Carolina drew widespread praise, particularly his singing of "Amazing Grace."

     

    He also recently invited a young Muslim teen falsely accused of bringing a bomb to his school to the White House, something that outraged a number of conservative types, both in Congress and cross the nation.

     

    But he really endeared himself to a lot of Blacks last Saturday night at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner. This time he didn't mince words or try softer rhetoric. He came out swinging at his critics, especially those in Congress.

     

    For instance he spoke about Republican promises to lower unemployment to six percent by 2017, pointing out that at this point in 2015 it was actually at 5.1. "You didn't hear much about that in the Republican debate," President Obama added.

     

    He also didn't hesitate to go after his harshest media critics, Fox News.

    Among other things, the network on multiple occasions has branded him a foe of police because he's openly addressed the issue of police misconduct and how it has negatively affected relations between law enforcement and various Black communities.  

     

    “I want to repeat, because this somehow this never shows up on Fox News,” the President said. “I want to repeat because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly. All the time. Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly difficult and dangerous job.”

     

    He was clearly upset and angry about it, and the response drew a lot of applause from his audience. “There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly,” President Obama added.

     

     “Do not make this as an ‘either/or’ proposition, this is a ‘both/and’ proposition. We want to protect our police officers and we’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they’re being treated fairly. Hope I’m making that clear."

     

    Despite his long held prominence as a sports fan, he's also risked the ire of all professional sports organizations with his proposal to end taxypaper-funded or financed stadiums and arenas. While this is something that others see as an incursion into the affairs of local communities, the President has pushed forward with his plan.

     

    There are those in the Black left who will never be pleased or satisfied with President Obama. They see him as still too willing to seek bi-partisan efforts, too interested in presenting himself as the President of all and unwilling to take any stances at all that speak directly to the problems of Blacks.

     

    They also accuse him of not doing enough to aid HBCU's, of no specific programs aimed at reducing poverty, and of not making recent moves to address prison ills wide enough or extensive enough.

     

    Yet, while some of that may be true, there is also no question that President Barack Obama sounds bolder, tougher and stronger today on a variety of issues than he did as recently as the start of his second term. Whether this ultimately provides the type of sweeping, long-term change that's needed, only time will tell.  

  • 22 Sep 2015 10:58 AM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Top Black journalists join Times

    By Ron Wynn

     

    It wasn't lauded in that many places other than in Robert Prince's "Journalisms" column, but "The New York Times" is finally making a move to address its lack of diversity in cultural coverage.

     

    The paper announced last Thursday that Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2012 while at the "Boston Globe," is joining the "Times" as a critic at large>

     

    This move, while not announced as such, is most certainly part of long sought changes that have been demanded ever since former "Times" TV critic Allessandra Stanley wrote a column about producer Shondra Rhimes that labeled her as having successfully overcome "the angry Black woman syndrome."

     

    That column not only became a viral sensation, it led to the paper being denounced by the National Association of Black Journalists and also bein cited for its insensitivity by numerous Black websites and organizations. At the time of that writing the Times had 20 critics doing cultural coverage. None were Black, though two were of color.

     

    Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, who is Black, had publicly pledged that he would address the issue, though he is also the person who ended the paper's race beat earlier in the year.  

     

    Morris, 39, will be a critic at large in the culture section. He will also be a contributing writer for the "New York Times Magazine," according to the section editor Danielle Mattoon.

     

    Morris discussed his job in a note to Prince last week. "I said yes to the job because it was a chance to do writing at the paper that had never officially been done before," that of a critic at large," Morris said.  "That will be exciting, I think. And people have been really kind about the news."

     

    Morris will be the first Black film critic at the " Times since Elvis Mitchell quit in 2004 after A. O. Scott was promoted to lead full time. Before that all three film critics at the paper had been on equal footing.

     

    Morris had been at "Grantland," an ESPN website full time since 2013, writing about film, fashion and music. He was also co-host of the pop culture podcast "Do You Like Prince Movies."  He had previously spent a decade at the "Globe."

     

    Ironically, Stanley is no longer covering television. She's now covering the ultra-rich and chic, a glorified gossip columnist. Morris is the second high profile Black hired by the "Times" in recent weeks. He joins Nikole Hannah-Jones, formerly at "ProPublica," where she covered racial issues. She's now a "Times" staffer.

  • 22 Sep 2015 10:51 AM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Police brutality victim addresses issues

    By Everything Underground

     

    Even people who usually have little to say regarding police misconduct were stunned and angered when a video surfaced of multiple police attacking and subduing a young California teen. When it turned out this was for jaywalking, there was even more outage. Now the youngster has gone public with his ordeal.

     

    Last Tuesday, cellphone video showing some five Stockton, Calif., police officers violently arresting a teen for jaywalking went viral on social media. Since then, demonstrations have been held in and around Northern California to protest the use of force against the teen, who says he did nothing wrong.

     

    Emilio Mayfield, 16, told "CBS Sacramento" that he was headed to school  when an officer approached him about walking in a bus lane.

    A police report viewed by "The Washington Post" indicates that Emilio told the officer, "F--k you, I'm not stopping for you."

    "The officer grabbed the suspect's arm, but he pulled away and took a fighting stance," the police report continues. "The officer used his [baton] to push the suspect to the ground and hold him there while waiting for backup."

    A passerby filmed the incident from this point, and the footage appears to show the officer pressing the baton against the boy, who is curled up in a ball. The officer continues to shout, "Stop resisting," although it doesn't appear that the teen is, in fact, resisting.

    The officer can be seen moving the baton toward Emilio's chest, and the two struggle over the baton. During the struggle, the officer appears to strike the teen in the face twice with the baton. Emilio then lets go of the baton and grabs his face.  

    The officer puts the baton away and yells at the boy to get on the ground. A bystander can be heard yelling, "It's a f--king kid! Get off him! He's been jaywalking! Leave him alone, he didn't do anything wrong!"

    Several backup officers arrive and grab the teen, with five of them slamming him to the ground, while another four stand watch. Emilio is cuffed and hauled away.

    Emilio told "CBS Sacramento" that he has felt "traumatized" since the incident.

    "His baton is toward my chest, then goes to my neck, and he was choking me," the teen told "ABC 10." "I can hardly breathe, and I'm pushing it back."

    According to "ABC 10," Emilio wasn't seriously hurt. He was taken to the police station and cited for trespassing in a bus lane and resisting arrest before being released to his mother.

     

    Police spokesman Joseph Silva told the news station that a preliminary review indicates that the initial officer's action was warranted because the teen took hold of the officer's baton.

    "As police officers, we cannot and will not let anyone grab onto or try to take away any of our weapons, not only for our safety but for the safety of the general public," he said.

    Silva added that a formal investigation into the incident is under way. If Emilio is tried and convicted as an adult, he could face up to a year in jail. Emilio told "CBS Sacramento" that the incident does not define him.

    "I see myself as a great young man, successful in school," he told the news station. 

  • 22 Sep 2015 10:42 AM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Community institutions endangered

    By Gene Demby

    NPR

     

    A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, when I was in the third grade.

     

    I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

    Standing before the old, brown brick building, I had that vaguely bewildering feeling of considering one's elementary school through adult eyes.

     

    This place that loomed large in my memory, where I learned to love reading in Ms. Curtis' class and where I sent my first email in computer lab on a white Apple IIGS with a blue screen, seemed really damn small.

     

    But memory was the only place that Durham — my Durham — still existed. The school had closed its doors in the late 1990s because of the city's crushing budget problems, and was later swept up in a wave of charter-ization that took over Philly after I graduated.

     

    The old Durham building now housed something called the Independence Charter School. My middle school, George C. Thomas in deeper South Philly, has undergone a similar conversion. They were part of a larger trend: In the past three years alone, Philadelphia has shuttered over 30 of its public schools. And most of the students affected by all this upheaval have been less-resourced children of color.

     

    So what happens to these places? Some became charters like Durham and Thomas; others were abandoned altogether. And then there are cases like Edward W. Bok High School in South Philly, a once well-known vocational-technical school that closed two years ago, and has become an inevitable flashpoint in the fight between the neighborhood's gentrifiers and the folks with older roots.

     

    It's no accident that local schools are battlegrounds. There are big structural and pedagogical questions embedded in how we decide to educate (or not educate), how we prioritize and allocate our public resources.

     

    But as I realized when I visited the ghost of Durham, local schools also fulfill a smaller, human-scale function: They orient us to our own histories, anchors of continuity in the places where we were from. Schools are where young people first learn how to interact with their communities in official and personal capacities, and offer a touchstone to reconnect with way down the line.

     

    All this messiness over communal identity is what's at stake in the intense, ongoing fight over Walter H. Dyett High School, in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. In the first half of the 20th century, Bronzeville was one of the great Northern berths for black folks who left the South during the Great Migration.

     

     Dyett bears the name of a popular music teacher who taught local kids who came up during that time, including Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington.

    A few years ago, Chicago announced its list of prospective school closings and Dyett has been on a slow death march ever since. Teachers quit. Students transferred out. No new students were allowed to enroll.

     

    And for the past few weeks, dozens of folks from the neighborhood surrounding Dyett High have staged a hunger strike in the hopes of forcing the city to keep its doors open. "Why can't we have public schools?" one of the protestors asked?  "Why do low-income minority students need to have their schools run by private contractors? We want this school to anchor the community for the next 75 years." 

     

    Until a satisfactory answer to that question is provided, the controversy will linger, and the issue will remain unresolved. 


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