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  • 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



    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. 

  • 15 Sep 2015 1:00 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Roland Martin's show shifts to mornings

    By Ron Wynn

    Until this past Monday morning there was no news program on television anywhere, broadcast or cable, that presented a wide range of news and information from a Black perspective.

     But that is no longer the case. "News One Now," a show anchored by longtime national newscaster and commentator Roland Martin and aired on TV One, moved to 7 a.m. weekdays on September 14. It is a long overdue move, and one that amazingly has never been tried by BET, which for many years was the only Black owned and operated television network in the country. They are now owned by Viacom, but neither Bounce TV or any of the recent Black owned additions to the television landscape had ventured into the morning television arena until TV One made its decision.

    It is the second recent move by Martin and the "News One" show that has attracted national attention. The first was their decision to interview the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan live on Sept. 10. 

    They devoted an entire hour to him, discussing mainly the upcoming "Justice or Else" commemoration of the Million Man March, but also asking him other general questions about the state of Black America and his views on a number of issues.

    Martin told "Rolling Out" News that he felt it was long past time that Black Americans had the opportunity to have their issues and ideas presented during morning time on television. Previously, the televised part of the program was at 9 a.m. But he said it was only logical to make the move, especially with a chance at expanding the show's audience. 

    "We were already a morning show just simply after the main news hour," Martin said. "As you go later in the morning, it changes the level of content; you go from harder news then softer. Our show will be a harder news show. One of the things our producers look at is that during the 7 a.m. time you see a larger segment of news viewers. There are 830,000 African American viewers at that time period."

    He was also very critical of what mainstream news shows, particularly television shows, choose to spotlight regarding Blacks. "It goes back to people who make the choices and why for African Americans," Martin added.

    "For example, Latinos don’t give a damn about the mainstream media. You know why? Because you look at the top ten shows in Hispanic households and it’s on Univision for news they look at Jorge Ramos. So for African Americans, it is crazy to ask somebody who does not have our best interests, to have our best interests. For me and TV One, we have our best interests because we know where these interests are."

    "The reality is what you see now on TV One is different from what you will on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News or other networks. Because for us we have African Americans making decisions, our focus and concerns are going to be different from lots of other people. I think that is critically important for us to recognize and understand. I think we have to demand that; we should not be dismissed or ignored when it comes to our issues and perspectives."

    He is also critical of those who dismiss the power of television or its value as a news source. "First, if you are ill-informed you are ill-equipped; that is what is important. I think what happens are folks have to be aware of the voices on the various issues. I understand those who say I can get my information through social media, but a 140-character tweet does not show all that we need."

    "So, I think it’s important for people to understand that we have to be informed. African Americans are avid readers, but it is important for us to understand that we have to have our outlets speaking to us and speaking to our issues and that’s why we are doing what we do at TV One."

    "I would love to have a three-hour morning show, but you have to build that audience, we are coming up on our second anniversary in November. That’s why I tell folks watch it, DVR it, Facebook it and tweet it and talk about it. Again, I go back to the Freedom’s Journal: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

    So, we at News One now are not asking other networks for support or to talk about us. Our point is we can do it ourselves, just as good as anybody else." Now, of course, the important thing is that the Black audience support this program. 

    The main excuse that has often been cited at outlets like BET is that Blacks don't support news and public affairs programming the way they do entertainment. Whether that in and of itself should be the barometer for putting news and public affairs on the air is valid, it is a reality that ratings and audience size still matter in TV circles, and TV One is no different.

    Should this move not yield positive results in terms of audience improvement, it will not last. That is a cold hard fact, and one those who push for more news and public affairs on Black media outlets must recognize. If "News One" fails, it will be a long, long time before another similar effort is attempted. It is essential that those who believe there need to be more shows like it watch it, and urge others to follow suit.

  • 15 Sep 2015 12:38 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

    Jazz Fest concerts held at Walker Center

    By Ron Wynn

    Jazz Fest events latest example of Walker Center's versatility

    By Ron Wynn

    In an era when many Black neighborhoods face multiple challenges from unemployment, crime and hopelessness, community centers have never been more important. 

    They are a place that can provide opportunities for  young and old to interact, enjoy cultural events, participate in inspirational activities, and stay informed about things happening both in their immediate area and throughout their cities and towns.

    One of the most vibrant and important community centers in the Midwest is the Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Avenue, in Indianapolis. It's both a landmark entity and among the last of its kind. The lone remaining iconic structure on Indiana Avenue, the Center also is listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. 

    This place has a glorious and noble history. It was formerly the headquarters and manufacturing plant of Madame CJ Walker Hair Care and Beauty Products, and it retains much of its original look and style via the classic architectural design.

    The Center is a 501 c3 non-profit organization. It's major goal is preserving Madame CJ Walker's legacy through cultural education, promoting social justice, supporting entrepreneurship and empowering youth to become the next generation of business owners and civic leaders. 

    he center has also been the sight for many memorable events and concerts over its tenure, thanks to the Grand Casino Ballroom. There, both national names such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Patti LaBelle, Michael Bolton, and Lena Horne, as well as local jazz greats like Gregg Bacon and Lonnie Lester have appeared.

    It is also a living testament and memorial to Madame CJ Walker, a visionary thinker and businesswoman. Sarah Breedlove started in the hair care business as a commission agent selling products for another Black woman health care entrepreneur Annie Tumbo Malone back in 1904, just as the World's Fair began. 

    She learned the basics of the business from Malone, then later married newspaper advertising salesman Charles Joseph Walker. They made a powerhouse team, with Walker's husband offering advice on advertising and promotion, while she trained other Black women as sales people and what she called "beauty culturists." 

    As Madame CJ Walker, she started a mail order operation in 1906, with her daughter A'Lelia in charge of that end, while she and her husband expanded the business by traveling throughout the southern and eastern United States.

    Walker moved from Denver to Pittsburgh in 1908, opening up Lelia College to further train "hair culturists." Then, she established her headquarters in Indianapolis in 1910, eventually building a factory, hair salon and beauty school, then later adding a laboratory. 

    She also expanded the business globally to Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama and Costa Rica. While subsequently becoming the nation's first Black woman millionaire, Walker also was very politically and socially active, and was one of the organizers of the Silent Protest Parade in 1917. This was a public demonstration of more than 8,000 Blacks on the East Coast to protest a riot that killed 39 innocent Black citizens.

    Before she died in 1919, Madame CJ Walker pledged $5,000 to the NAACP's anti-lynching fund. Her will directed 2/3 of her estate's future net profits to charity, and another $100,000 to various orphanages, institutions and individuals. 

    The Walker Center's many cultural and social activities continue in her family's tradition of community involvement and philanthropic support according to the center's current visual arts curator Devon Ginn.

    "It's very important that we maintain our history and keep the legacy of Madame Walker going," Ginn said last week. "We've got to be an innovative force in the community. It's important that we be a place where a lot of vibrant activities and events are constantly happening. We're in a time and an area where it is essential to our survival and to continuing our mission."

    "Unfortunately, there are people out there who don't know our history and aren't aware of what's been going on here for a long, long time. So we are continuing to take our message out to the community, and getting people to come here and see the many things that we are doing."

    The latest thing happening at the Walker Center are the Signature Series concerts, a big part of the ongoing Jazz Fest celebration. Multiple Grammy winning gospel/jazz vocalists Take 6 opened the series last week, and were followed on September 15 by another acclaimed performer, the superb diva and also a multiple Grammy winner Dianne Reeves. The versatile guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Butler will be appearing at the Walker Center September 18th.

    But those only reflect part of the Center's musical events. "Our Jazz on the Avenue is one of our oldest programs, " Ginn added. "It's on the last Friday of every month, and we get some of the city's best jazz musicians playing right here. It's also among our most popular events. Indianapolis has an impressive jazz tradition, and we're happy to be part of maintaining it." Tickets to the series are $10. 

    Fans can also purchase a soul-food dinner prepared by Percy Grant for an additional $10. The Center is also participating in Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations during September. This month's Jazz ON the Avenue guest is Grupo Bimbe. "They are an exciting band that mixes salsa, merengue, and many other styles into a sound that's also rooted in jazz."

    There's also their youth empowerment program, Kamp Kuumba. It's held three times each year, in the fall, spring and summer, and it's a chance for young people to receive training in several areas. These include dance, vocal, theater, music and visual arts classes, as well as mentoring and guidance. 

    The sessions are two weeks each in the fall and spring, eight weeks in the summer, and it is open to young people across the board, with a sliding scale aimed to encourage participation from children whose families' incomes usually preclude participation in arts classes. 

    Plus the Center has a series of awards designed to recognize and honor those dedicated to community uplift and empowerment. These "Spirit Awards" include the Madame CJ Walker Center Heritage, Young Entrepreneur, Excellence in Corporate Citizenship, and Legacy honors.

    The Center was also voted Indianapolis' Best Theatre by WRTV in 2010. But as Ginn says, the Center's work is never finished, and they're anxiously looking to the future.

    "When you're in this neighborhood, you can't stand still," he concludes. "We're always looking to expand, do more things, keep the Center's name out there in the minds of the public. That's our mission, to keep pushing for empowerment and opportunity."

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