The Kremlin wants to make it clear that it does not have a dossier of damaging information on President-elect Donald Trump.
Its comments come after reports surfaced Tuesday that four U.S. intelligence agencies received files that included unverified claims Russia reportedly used to blackmail the president-elect. Kremlin officials came out Wednesday to call the reports untrue.
“It is an attempt to damage our bilateral relations. It is pulp fiction,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Reuters reports. Peskov also denied the dossier’s claim that he was heavily involved in damaging Hillary Clinton’s bid for president.
“You have to react to this with a certain humor, but there’s also a sad side to this. Hysteria is being whipped up to maintain a political witch hunt,” he said.
Trump has taken to Twitter to denounce the accusations.
Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Read more at Reuters.
Being Mary Jane is back for a fourth season and Mary Jane Paul is still pompously lacking in self awareness. While we open to MJ sauntering down the hallway to Beyoncé’s “Six Inch,” a song that proclaims the business prowess and appeal of a woman, it doesn’t take long for MJ to almost completely unravel in her most vulnerable space: her sexuality and pursuit of love.
The show picks up by fast forwarding a year later from where the finale left off. The cliffhangers of Niecy being assaulted by the police during an erroneous traffic stop and Patrick’s pill popping straining his relationship with his father, Paul Sr., who is grappling with the financial strains of upholding the family, set up the fourth season to be a continuation of the complex motifs of black livelihood that Being Mary Jane is known for subtle tackling. But now we have a major shift in the new season with Kara and MJ relocating to New York City after leaving SNC amidst scandal, one voluntarily and the other involuntarily.
What does this move to NYC mean for Kara’s character arc? We last saw her walking the tightrope of balancing being a career-minded mother, and pointedly passing up working on an additional project with MJ, so that she could spend more time with her two sons. But now she’s back in her hometown, missing planned weekends to see her sons, who stayed behind in Atlanta. Will we revisit the contentious relationship Kara had with the new Latina in the office, Marisol, that had Kara being investigated by HR for harassment? Or has the “you’re no longer a token, is this new girl a threat?” storyline shifted to MJ as the newly minted segment host on the daytime talk show, Great Day USA, with her longtime idol, Ronda Sales?
We were left with quite a few questions from the last season, but this season opener presented so many more scratch-your-head, “Is this chick serious?” questions, that for now we need to move on to the present. MJ is so lost in her pursuit of love that she’s willing to shell out $20,000 to a matchmaker two days after moving to NYC. Is she really begging ole girl to take her $20K with immediacy, turning down the advice to wait a few months?
With desperation and bountiful disposable income, MJ could not write that check fast enough. The prospect of working with a $20,000 matchmaker, whose services come with stringent rules, leads MJ to the club with Kara to pick up a guy for the night. This scene was a caricature of itself, with two professional women, one with a highly public job, only needing a wink and a nice smile to bed a man. Anyone who has lived in NYC knows how quickly degrees of separation become nil, especially for those in media.
Turned off because one man recognized her, MJ’s willingness to throw caution and concern for her public persona to the wind because of a British accent is quizzical. Somehow MJ, after initiating with the Londoner with coy confidence, unravels in the midst of acting out her sexual fantasy, and when dude senses MJ’s discomfort, we have a bright spot of consent in the fog of bad decisions. Before we even get to a name, MJ is asking the guy to say “you love me,” because…fantasy. He says it and we all collectively sucked the air between our teeth.
A cameo from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and a nod to his failed 2015 senate bill addressing the school-to-prison pipeline, MJ is on her toes in the arena where she knows how to keep it together–her career. The setup for a showdown with Ronda is obvious before her and MJ ever have a real conversation, but as with the ever-conniving CeCe (played by Loretta Devine) from last season, it will be interesting to see how this relationship challenges, helps and/or hurts MJ. Ronda may have “regrets that are older than Garrett,” but the young white boy is the executive producer whose moves are predictable both by us and Ronda.
The London lover pops up on MJ, on live television, on her first official day on the job. How far can one cock their head to the left and ask “What you doing?” Unannounced and indiscreet, girl nah. Lee Truitt is persistent no matter the direct curves thrown at him and MJ is unhinged, self-centered and foolish enough to pop up on him at his comedy show, after the matchmaker denies her service. If someone paid you $20K for your services and you already deposited the check, how far do they have to go that you voluntarily give them a full refund and tell them to go about their merry way? The matchmaker so succinctly read Mary Jane, in a message she needs to hear but it will probably take her all season to receive: “You got some blinds spots when it comes to self knowledge. […] you’ve got more work to do on yourself.” MJ decides to put in that work with Lee instead. Now that names are exchanged, the second night together isn’t such a bad decision. MJ may let Lee linger.
Back in Atlanta, Niecy and family are dealing with the aftermath of the police assault. With the prospect of a hefty lawsuit payout, Niecy’s baby daddy appears to be doing just enough to be in her good graces. He was smirking hard for the swindle. We’ll have to pray over Niecy’s growth and maturity, hopefully spearheaded by her father, Patrick, who finally offered the apology and acknowledgment Niecy has spent the past three seasons pining for. Slow clap for the first appearance of emotional maturation on this episode.
For all that Mary Jane lacks in emotional maturity in the pursuit of love, Being Mary Jane always presents the opportunity for self-reflection on some of our bad decisions and less-than emotional moments. Mary Jane pushes it so far that there’s room for all of us to consider where we’ve done something similar and how we can and should do better. In the first season without Mara Brock Akil at the helm, we have to wait to see how this season, in its new city, sets up the bevy of complex characters to initiate dialogue and teach us some lessons.
The El Cajon, Calif. police officer who gunned down an unarmed black man who was apparently having a mental break down, will not face criminal charges, the District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports
“The law recognizes police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving,” San Diego County, Calif. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said during a news conference at the Hall of Justice. “As prosecutors we have an ethical duty to follow the law and only charge individuals when we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The only reasonable conclusion was the officer’s actions were justified.”
The family of Alfred Olango, the man who was fatally shot, swiftly denounced Dumanis’ announcement, promising to keep on fighting for justice for their loved one.
“War has been declared on humanity and the battle line has been drawn,” Olango’s father, Richard Olango Abuka told reporters at a separate news conference at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Southcrest, the Union-Tribune notes. “This is the time to talk for Alfred. This is the time to defend Alfred … and even to cry for Alfred.”
Olango Abuka, who immigrated to the U.S. from Uganda, said that he was shocked that an officer in America can kill another person without being arrested, the news site notes.
Meanwhile, the president of the San Diego branch of the National Action Network, Rev. Shane Harris, said that he will request that Gov. Jerry Brown appoint a special prosecutor to the case.
Olango was shot and killed late September following an altercation in a parking lot behind a taco shop in a strip mall. Police claimed that Olango was holding a vaping device with a silver cylinder, which was mistaken for a gun.
Dumanis said that the way in which Olango abruptly pulled the object from his pocket – rather than slowly obeying officer’s demands – was “critical in determining whether the officer’s fear of being shot was reasonable under the circumstances.”
“It appears Olango’s actions in bringing up his hands in this manner, with the vaping device, was a purposeful, intentional act by Olango to place [Officer Richard] Gonsalves in fear that he was about to be shot,” Dumanis wrote in her letter to the police chief.
A lawyer representing Olango’s wife and daughters spoke out against the district attorney’s ruling.
“This is not in any way going to diminish our resolve to seek justice for the family through the civil justice system and the reforms that will work to ensure that this type of homicide does not occur in the future,” attorney Brian Dunn said.
Read more at the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will testify against Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, Wednesday, making Booker the first sitting senator to oppose another sitting senator for a Cabinet position.
With Democrats scrambling for fresh, new leadership, many Republicans believe that Booker’s move is political jockeying for a national platform to serve his own interests, as Booker’s name is one of those mentioned for presidential consideration in 2020, CNN reports.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, took to Facebook to question Booker’s motives calling the move a “disgraceful breach of custom.”
“This hearing simply offers a platform for his presidential aspirations. Senator Booker is better than that, and he knows better,” Cotton wrote.
According to CNN, Democrats have also made clear that Booker’s decision to testify is a solo effort.
“It’s not for me to approve or disapprove. He’s asked to testify and his message is whatever he wants it to be,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2-ranking Democrat told CNN.
Booker told CNN, Tuesday, that he had a call to conscience.
“I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague,” Booker said. “But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience.”
“This is one of the more consequential appointments in American history right now given the state of a lot of our challenges we have with our policing, a lot of challenges we have with race relations, gay and lesbian relations,” Booker said, CNN reports.
Read more at CNN.
If you wanted to #BankBlack but had no idea where to start, or what that really even means, now is your chance to get some answers.
On Thursday, Jan 12 at 7:00 p.m. EST, One United Bank, the largest black-owned bank in America will be going live on Facebook from its Miami branch to answer questions about the #BankBlack Movement that has been making its way across the nation in the past year or so.
According to the press release, the event is intended to be an interactive social media event with President and Chief Operating Officer of OneUnited, Teri Williams and Founder and Trabian Shorters, CEO of BMe Community – a national network invested in black men giving back to their communities. Both leaders will be taking questions in real time from the bank’s Facebook page.
“The #BankBlack and #BuyBlack movements are an outgrowth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has increased awareness of the importance of supporting the Black community. OneUnited is using social media to tell inspiring stories, answer questions, teach financial literacy and help everyone appreciate the power of our dollars,” Williams said in a press release.
It was around summer 2016 that a tangible shift could be seen in the public, with millions answering the call to #BankBlack and moving money from traditional banks to Black owned banks, which then translates into more loans and jobs fro the black community. OneUnited itself has seen about $20 million in deposits, generated some $130 million in loads and doubled its social media numbers and increased its national staff by 10% in light of the interest in black owned banks, the release notes.
Last August, BMe also stepped up to the plate, putting its money where its mouth is and redirecting $1 million of its deposits into OneUnited. Shorters told The Root at the time that his organization had plans to partner with the bank on literacy programs that help people learn how to manage their money, among other projects.
“BMe Community has partnered with OneUnited Bank because we want you to have the know-how and networks for building wealth,” Shorters said, according to the press release.
Coretta Scott King’s scathing letter, in which she urged Congress to block the 1986 nomination of Jeff Sessions for federal judge, has finally been released to the public after being obtained by the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Earlier reports indicated that the letter did exist, but the original letter was reportedly missing as then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond did not put the letter into the congressional record and the full contents were never made public.
As the Post notes, during the 1986 hearing, King’s letter and blatant opposition became one of the key elements that ended Sessions bid to become a federal judge. Only current Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had the sole authority to release the letter.
However, now, thanks to the Post, we can read King’s words of wisdom concerning the nominee, which may be timely now given that Sessions is working his way through his confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general.
On the cover page accompanying the nine-page letter to Congress, the activist and civil rights leader wrote that “Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts.”
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship,” King insisted.
King blasted Sessions apparent behavior as a U.S. Attorney, arguing that “his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions,” and his apparent “indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights law, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgement to be a federal judge.”
King goes on to voice her concern that Sessions’ nomination, if confirmed will only prove to be a step backward for voting rights.
“The irony of Mr. Sesssions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriff’s accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods,” she wrote.
“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions posses the requisite judgement, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court,” King said, finishing up her letter. “Based on his record, I believe that his confirmation would have a devastating effect not only on the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago.”
Read King’s full letter at the Washington Post.
The Obama Farewell wasn’t a funeral. Far from it. In fact, it was a revival.
At the close of a historic two-term presidency, as the nation’s first African-American president of the United States, Barack Obama had one last benevolent act: To remind the country not to give up on hope or the belief that they could create change.
Despite the enthusiastic cheering from the audience at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center Tuesday evening, many attendees couldn’t hold back their tears as President Obama reminded them of what’s happened during his tenure, and just how far we’ve all come—together.
“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history … if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11 … if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens—you might have said our sights were set a little too high,” Obama said.
“But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change,” he continued. “You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”
His farewell speech went far beyond a full accounting of what he’s accomplished in office. Being true to his roots as both a lawyer and law professor, and as a community organizer, President Obama offered reminded Americans of the power and potential of a democracy where people choose to participate, as well as a commentary on how history has led to the current state of our politics.US President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. Barack Obama closes the book on his presidency, with a farewell speech in Chicago that will try to lift supporters shaken by Donald Trump’s shock election. / AFP / Joshua LOTT (Photo credit should read JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
“Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles,” Obama said, eventually pivoting to issues of racism and prejudice. “There’s a second threat to our democracy—one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic . . . [W]e’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do.”
In order to change the tide, Obama said, laws must be upheld against discrimination in all aspects of everyday life and in how government functions, in addition to changing hearts and minds, and bridging gaps of understanding of people in various other identity groups.
“Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of paper. It has no power on its own,” he told the crowd. “We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.”
For a president and campaigner long known for his command of public speaking, one who retains impeccable poise and controlled delivery, he remained unflappable in this emotionally-charged moment—from when took the stage and for almost an entire hour—until he had to pause and shed a few tears in gratitude for First Lady Michelle Obama.US first lady Michelle Obama (R) and the Vice Presidents wife, Jill Biden, hug as US President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. Barack Obama closes the book on his presidency, with a farewell speech in Chicago that will try to lift supporters shaken by Donald Trump’s shock election. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
The audience rang out into its largest mid-speech cheer of the night—while many others present cried along with him.
“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor,” he said. “You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.”US first lady Michelle Obama (L) holds her daughter Malia as US President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. Barack Obama closes the book on his presidency, with a farewell speech in Chicago that will try to lift supporters shaken by Donald Trump’s shock election. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
After acknowledging and thanking both of his daughters, Malia and Sasha, and both Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, as well as many former campaign staffers and White House staffers, he turned his attention back to America. To thank them, just one more time—one final time as the president.
“For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours,” he said. “Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can.”
Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, set for Saturday, Jan. 21, are gearing up for what they hope will be the largest mass mobilization ever on the first full day of a new presidential administration. It is set for one day after the swearing-in of President-elect Donald Trump.
“You can’t ignore a grassroots group of people who have come in the hundreds of thousands,” says march co-chairwoman Linda Sarsour, co-founder of MPowerChange, which she says is the first Muslim online platform. Sarsour, who is Palestinian American and Muslim, is a longtime racial-justice and civil rights activist who believes a mobilization of this magnitude is long overdue.
“As a Muslim, I have been fighting against so many things in the past 15 years; I want, for once, to have hundreds of thousands stand for something and not against something,” Sarsour says.
The march began with a Facebook posting by Teresa Shook, a retired attorney in Hawaii. Once it was clear that Trump had won the presidential race, she asked in a post on Facebook: What if women marched on Washington, D.C., around Inauguration Day en masse? Shook asked friends for help, and started an event page for the march she envisioned. Within hours, 10,000 had answered the call. As of Jan. 6, more than 245,000 said they were interested and more than 170,000 said they would attend.
“I guess in my heart of hearts I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t really think it would’ve ever gone viral,” Shook told the Washington Post. “I don’t even know how to go viral.”
There was an initial kerfuffle over the lack of diversity among the initial group of white women contacted by Shook and over early plans to call the gathering the Million Women’s March. That had been the name of a 1997 gathering of African-American women in Philadelphia, and there were questions and concerns raised by some women of color on Facebook. Rosie Campos, who had planned to co-organize the Pennsylvania chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, stepped down and wrote a piece for Medium arguing that “white activism continues to be lazy activism” and that organizers were trying to quash the voices of those criticizing the march.
But march co-chairwoman Tamika Mallory, a national organizer of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the youngest executive director of the National Action Network, downplays the drama. She is part of a now-diverse team of march leaders and says woman of color were involved within 56 hours of the original posting.
“[Teresa Shook] announced it to the people she knew … a network of white women,” Mallory says. “But by Friday [after the election], an effort was made to make sure women of color were included. … I received a call along with [fellow march co-chairwoman] Carmen Perez … to meet with these women to talk about what the agenda should be and how to ensure that women of color were a part of this effort.”
Perez, executive director of the nonprofit the Gathering for Justice (which was created by actor-activist Harry Belafonte), notes that organizers have been “very intentional” about the intersection of issues ranging from reproductive justice to criminal-justice reform, LGBTQIA, climate justice and immigration.
Although many planning to attend are doing so at least in part to send a message to Trump over his remarks about women, Muslims and Mexicans, organizers don’t want to characterize this gathering as an “anti-Trump” march.
“We’re not going to ignore the Trump factor. Clearly, that is an issue, and there are a lot of women and others organizing and going to this march because they want to ensure that they make a statement to President-elect Trump that we are not going to allow our rights to be rolled back,” says Mallory. “We do not stand for fascism, sexism … all of the things we’ve seen happen and the things we have heard over this election cycle.”
But Mallory adds that those involved in this march must be “more sophisticated in our advocacy” than to go to Washington only to address Donald Trump. In addition to dealing with the fact that roughly 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, she says demonstrators must also look at how Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and even local governments are addressing their issues and ensuring that their rights are respected. Mallory says this march is an extension of a network that has long worked for racial-justice issues and against economic inequalities, and that there is a threat now not only to society at large but also for marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
“There’s urgency right now and an energy we need to harness,” adds co-chair Perez, “but it really is beyond Jan. 21. We’re hoping to not only inspire women and their families but to ignite a spark to go back into their communities and organize.”
Some critics have worried that the diversity of messages at the march will dilute the power of its message, but organizers don’t believe that will be the case.
“There is no one answer to what a movement looks like,” Mallory says. “There are moments we have to be very streamlined and focused on one particular goal, and there are times we have to deal with a broader, more diverse agenda. … This is one of those times.”
The Women’s March on Washington is set to begin with a rally at 10 a.m., at the corner of Third Street and Independence Avenue Southwest in Washington near the U.S. Capitol. Perez says that after the rally, with speakers and performers that run until 1 p.m., there will be a march with an as-yet-undisclosed route for security reasons—though there are no current threats against the gathering.
Belafonte and feminist Gloria Steinem are honorary co-chairs, and actress America Ferrera will chair the Artists’ Committee for the march. Partner organizations range from Planned Parenthood to Amnesty International. Organizers say there are more than 150 solidarity marches planned in all 50 states and in 20 nations.
“The message will be very clear and quite scary: that progressives are uniting,” Sarsour explains. “What you will see is a message of unity—declaring that from now on, we will work, and win, together.”
The South Bronx in New York City has sealed its place in history as the birthplace of hip-hop, where black and Latino youths created something out of nothing. But while the Latino community gets props for certain elements of hip-hop culture—including graffiti, DJing and breakdancing—it hasn’t gotten as much love for rapping. In the ’90s, Fat Joe and Big Pun changed that.
Not only did South Bronx native Fat Joe, who is the subject of Wednesday night’s Unsung on TV One, help give a face to Latino rappers, but he also helped put forward other talented lyricists, including Remy Ma and other members of the Terror Squad, including Cuban Link, Triple Seis and the late, great Big Pun.
One thing that Fat Joe has that many hip-hop stars from the ’90s don’t is unquestionable longevity. If you ask millennials about Fat Joe, they’ll say he’s “all the way up.” If you ask someone from the hip-hop generation, he or she will say, “What’s love got to, got to do with it?”
And he’s still going strong after 10 studio albums. His new album, Plata o Plomo (“Silver or Lead,” which means “Take the bribe or lose your life”), is a collaborative album with Remy Ma that’s due out Feb. 10.
The Unsung episode features commentary by rapper-producer Diamond D, DJ Khaled, 50 Cent and Ralph McDaniels, among others, and features footage of Big Pun, whom Fat Joe met in a bodega. Big Pun rapped for him on the spot and they formed an instant brotherhood.
Fat Joe talked to The Root about hip-hop, family and music ahead of his episode of Unsung.
The Root: Hip-hop began in the Bronx, and Latinos get love for breakdancing and graffiti but not as much for rap. I think you and Big Pun changed that, and I think the Unsung episode reflects that.
Fat Joe: The DJs are very important internally, but they don’t get glorified as much as the rappers, and Latinos played an intricate part with the breakdancing and the DJs, but the rappers are the ones that get most of the shine. There were Latinos in the rap game—Cypress Hill and a couple of others. If you look at history, at the first time hip-hop was invented, there was a Latino right there. How they got erased, I don’t know how that all came about. It’s crazy because everybody was there together. More and more with these documentaries, there is more information to prove we were there.
FJ: They saved my life. Diamond D grew up in the same projects with me on Trinity Avenue in the Bronx, and we used to write graffiti together. Then one day I took a turn for the worse, and he was still doing the music thing, and one day he got up on me and was like, “Yo, Joe, man, instead of you doing all this crazy stuff out here, why don’t you write it down and do it in the music?” I was rapping, but he was like, “Take it serious.” He was like, “Let’s go in the studio and make some music.” We cut some demos and one of them was “Flow Joe,” which was my first single.
I went to the Apollo Theater on Amateur Night and I came in first place, and Red Alert approached me like, “Listen, I think you’re a superstar. if you have any music, I’ll play it.” Red Alert was the god of rap. I listened to his show for, like, a month or two before he finally played it, and I jumped to the sky. I couldn’t believe it! I put my speaker in the window and yelled out to the whole block, “They playing my music!”
Chris Lighty came up to me in the street and said, “Look, I think you can be a superstar, so I want to sign you.” And I signed a contract right in the middle of the street.
I would not be here if it wasn’t for Chris Lighty. Because of me getting that opportunity, I gave so many other people opportunities—like, a generation of hip-hop that wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Chris Lighty being in my life. When he passed away, I looked at my kids, I looked at my wife, I looked at my house and it hit me hard—like, this man saved my life. Like, I would have been dead. I would probably … have never even had these kids. He’s that monumental of a figure in my life and in my career.
TR: How have you maintained your longevity? You’re an artist that I can say, “Fat Joe,” and my kids know you from today—not just from me playing your records from back in the day.
FJ: I never lose touch. If you let me tell it, I’ll tell you I never got my just due and my respect for being one of the greats in hip-hop, and because of that, the fire never burned out. There’s more and more of a need for me to succeed or take the legacy a step further, and that’s what it is. I stay around the young boys in the studio; I want to learn from them, and at the same time I have a lot to offer them.
TR: What did Big Pun teach you?
FJ: I learned so much. Pun was truly a genius. I am more of a hustler. There’s a kid that’s a natural LeBron James, and there’s another kid that’s pretty good, but he won’t leave the gym. He found a way to make himself better. Pun was just a natural-born genius with music, and he basically taught me so many tricks on how to make better music, even though I was the one that discovered him.
He was so far advanced than me; he taught me a lot. We pray for him every day. My kids worship him like he’s a god. My daughter is 10 years old and she knows all of Big Pun’s lyrics. That’s in their DNA—every Remy Ma rhyme, every Big Pun rhyme. That’s where we come from. Very sad that he was gone so soon.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday granted stayed a lower court demand that North Carolina lawmakers redraw many of their districts and hold new elections in 2017.
The one paragraph order puts the case on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the matter, and WRAL reports that if SCOTUS does take the case, North Carolina won’t hold a new election until the high court makes a ruling on the issue.
Normally, North Carolina would not have had another election until 2018, but a lower court found that 28 of the 170 state legislative districts in North Carolina violated rules against relying heavily on the race of voters to determine district lines, a practice known as ‘gerrymandering.’
According to WRAL, the trio of judges who made the original ruling said last week that they did not want to give lawmakers more time to redraw their districts.
“The time during which Plaintiffs and other citizens are represented by legislators elected in racially gerrymandered districts would serve only to exacerbate the irreparable harm the voters have already suffered by allowing an unconstitutionally constituted legislature to continue to act,” the judges wrote in their Jan. 4 order.
WRAL notes that many of the issues at play in this state gerrymandering case are similar to a case involving congressional districts that went before the court in December; the Supreme Court has not issued a ruling in that case yet.
While it remains unclear if or when the court will have a full hearing on the cases, the justices do have the option of ruling either for or against the state without the benefit of further briefings or hearing oral arguments.
“Today’s action just puts everything on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers the appeal of whether the district court was correct to order special elections in 2017. On behalf of our clients, we continue to trust that the district court’s ruling will be upheld and new districts ultimately will be drawn that are not based on race,” Anita Earls, director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents the plaintiffs who challenged the districts, said.
On the other side, Republican leaders in the state issued a joint news release praising the stay.
“We are grateful the U.S. Supreme Court has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 legislative elections,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Rockingham, and Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said.
Read more at WRAL.
Officials met behind closed doors in Chicago on Tuesday to determine if Flint’s water technically meets federal standards again.
The meeting, which took place at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional headquarters in Chicago, was touted as an opportunity for officials to share testing data on the safety of city drinking water after its long battle with contamination issues, but as the Detroit News reports, the decision to work out of the public eye drew strong criticism.
Tuesday’s meeting, which was closed to the public and the press, was attended by representatives from the city of Flint, the EPA, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Tech researchers who have helped document the water contamination issues in Flint. As the Detroit News notes, many of those same officials will be at a town hall meeting in Flint on Wednesday to discuss the latest findings with the public. That meeting has been limited to just 300 residents out of the 99,000 living in Flint.
Melissa Mays is a Flint resident who has worked to compel state and federal regulators to deal with the city’s problems. She traveled to Chicago this week to make her opposition to the closed-door meeting known.
In a phone call from EPA headquarters, Mays told the Detroit News, “This isn’t right. All the meetings and decisions that were made behind closed doors, that’s how we got poisoned in the first place, by not including Flint residents in any of the decisions.
“Flint residents should at least have had the option to view a livestream of the meeting,” Mays added. “It’s our future.”
Henry Henderson, Midwest program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council echoed Mays’s concerns.
“There is no valid reason to shut out the public from this meeting,” Henderson told the Detroit News. “We’re concerned that the choice to keep these conversations behind closed doors works simply to reinforce the distrust between the community and the government. The Flint water crisis is not over until the community trusts their water is safe, and a lack of transparency makes that harder.”
Flint’s water problems began in 2014 when in an effort to save money, the began drawing drinking water from the local river; improperly treated river water damaged the city’s pipes.
As Michigan Radio reports, recent tests by the state and independent researchers suggest an improvement in water quality since switching back to Detroit as a source more than a year go, but critics say it’s too soon to declare tap water in the city safe for drinking.
Michael Steinberg with the American Civil Liberties Union told Michigan Radio that more testing is needed and said that any declaration by the state or “at the town hall meeting that the water is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act …is not only wrong…it’s irresponsible.”
Rev. Rigel Dawson told Michigan Radio that it’s too soon to make any definitive statements about whether Flint water is once again “safe” to drink.
“We cannot issue a blanket statement and say everything’s fine,” Dawson said, “because too many factors change from month to month.”
A person claiming to be a former British intelligence official compiled a dossier that has been circulating for weeks among elected officials, intelligence agents and journalists, making claims that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him.
The dossier is a collection of memos reportedly written over a period of months, and includes specific but unverified allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives. It also contains graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians which are also unverified. CNN reported on Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the dossier was given to President Obama and President-elect Trump.
BuzzFeed has obtained and published the full document “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”
Much of what is in the report are things that have already been widely reported and speculated on in the media, including Russia interfering in the election by providing information on Hillary Clinton and the like. The most salacious claims, however, allege that Trump has some kinky ideas on what to do in the bedroom.
According to the report, Donald Trump allegedly rented the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel “where he knew President and Mrs. Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia.” The report goes on to say that Trump “defiled” the room by hiring prostitutes and having them “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.”
The room was allegedly full of concealed microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything that happened in them.
The president-elect’s attorney, Michael Cohen, said that the allegations were false.
“It’s so ridiculous on so many levels,” Cohen said. “Clearly the person who created this did so from their imagination or did so hoping that the liberal media would run with this fake story for whatever rationale they have.”
Trump also spoke out against the reports on his own Twitter feed.
FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
And of course, Twitter responded as well.
.@realDonaldTrump (It makes it seem like maybe you peed on the Russian girls or they peed on one another for your pleasure, dear.)
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) January 11, 2017
— ⚾️ Frank Cooney ⚾️ (@FrankCooney) January 11, 2017
— Bryan Matthew (@bryanmw2283) January 11, 2017
— Tim Everett (@freektrain) January 11, 2017
— AppliedNewtonian (@refunfunyadora) January 11, 2017
Again, The Root cannot and is not asserting that the allegations contained in the dossier are true, but we had a good time laughing as we read through it.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
A federal judge has ruled that key parts of a lawsuit against Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, filed by five of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, can move forward.
“U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that claims including malicious prosecution, defamation, and invasion of privacy can move forward against Mosby and Assistant Sheriff Samuel Cogen, who wrote the statement of probable cause,” the Baltimore Sun reports.
Although Mosby’s attorneys said she had immunity from prosecution for actions taken as a state’s attorney, Garbis noted that her office had said it conducted an independent investigation.
“Plaintiffs’ malicious prosecution claims relate to her actions when functioning as an investigator and not as a prosecutor,” Garbis wrote.
The claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and abuse of process were dismissed, the Sun reports, as were all claims against the state.
Mosby is being represented by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which has not yet commented on the 65-page ruling.
As previously reported on The Root, Gray, 25, suffered a broken spine while in police custody and died a week later. Three of the officers charged in the April 2015 arrest and death of Gray were found not guilty of all charges, and prosecutors dropped the charges against the remaining three officers in July 2016.
David Ellin, an attorney representing Lt. Brian Rice, one of the officers who sued Mosby and Cogen, told the Sun that barring a reversal on appeal, the ruling means that the officers’ attorneys will begin the discovery stage, which includes deposing Mosby and others involved in the investigation.
“We’re looking forward to the depositions and learning about what really happened,” Ellin said. “We think the discovery process will really allow us to flesh out many things.”
Ellin told the Sun that he expects Mosby’s attorneys to appeal, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court because of the questions it poses for prosecutors who take a more active role in investigations.
“The ramifications of this case are huge and nationwide,” Ellin said.
As the Sun notes, Mosby charged six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport with criminal counts including manslaughter and second-degree murder, alleging that the arresting officers had no grounds to detain Gray, and other officers ignored Baltimore Police Department rules requiring them to secure him with a seat belt in the police van and seek prompt medical attention.
Officers Garrett Miller, Edward Nero and William Porter, Sgt. Alicia White and Rice have all alleged that Mosby and Cogen knowingly brought false charges.
Both Mosby and Cogen deny the allegations.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who was driving the arrest van in which the medical examiner’s office said Gray suffered his injuries, did not join the lawsuit, the Sun notes.
Garbis said that the plaintiffs’ allegations provided enough support for the lawsuit to move forward.
“Viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, they present allegations that present a plausible claim that the defendants made false statements or omissions either knowingly or with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity,” Garbis wrote.
According to the Sun, Cogen’s attorneys said last fall that he did not have firsthand knowledge of the evidence in the case, and only looked at documents presented to him by Mosby’s office, but Mosby’s attorneys say the material that ended up in the charging documents was Cogen’s responsibility.
Read more at the Baltimore Sun.
Warrick Dunn has been giving back to the community for almost half his life. For the past 20 years, Dunn has been building and remodeling homes to help single-parent families fulfill their dreams of home ownership.
In 2006, Dunn and Dunn’s foundation, Warrick Dunn Charities, donated a house to a family, and one of the boys in that family just happened to be Deshaun Watson, the quarterback of the Clemson Tigers who helped his team win the national championship Monday.
Warrick Dunn giving the Watson family the keys to their house in 2006. Deshaun Watson in black sweatshirt on the right. pic.twitter.com/UjGlcIhlkT
— HAPPY MOO YEAR (@edsbs) January 10, 2017
ESPN noted that Watson and his family moved into the home from their government-subsidized apartment in a rough neighborhood after Watson’s mother found a pamphlet about a Habitat for Humanity program in her son’s trick-or-treat basket. She contacted the program and started the process to move the family to their new home. Years later, Watson would speak to Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
“We were in government housing,” Watson told the crowd, ESPN reports. “[Mom] figured, ‘What could be worse?’”
Watson’s new home came completely furnished and even “came with a television and a computer, plus cabinets full of food and a lawn mower,” Sports Illustrated reports.
The rest, as they say, is history. On Monday, Watson closed his career, throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning toss to lead the Tigers to a 35-31 victory.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is currently undergoing a weird process of schmooze-fest and hard-hitting interrogation as president-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General.
This isn’t the first time that Sessions faced a committee seeking approval for a high-ranking position. In 1986, Sessions was up for federal judge position and Coretta Scott King wrote a letter blasting Sessions nomination.
Now, that letter is missing.
According to BuzzFeed, an impassioned letter written by the activist and widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., became one of the key parts that ended Sessions bid to become a federal judge.
The news site notes that Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond didn’t put the letter into congressional record and while the letter clearly opposed Sessions appointment, the contents of the letter remain unknown except for one quote:
“For a century, the racial practices that characterized our region were established and enforced by men who, like Mr. Sessions, protested that they, too, were not personally hostile to blacks,” published in June 1986 by Knight Ridder reporter Aaron Epstein, BuzzFeed reports.
While several senators told the news site that they remember the letter, no one has a physical copy. BuzzFeed is calling for anyone that has an actual physical copy of the letter to contact: Contact reporter John Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
The show Being Mary Jane did not necessarily require much in the way of revamping. However, with the show’s creators and executive producers, Mara Brock and Salim Akil, leaving for a production deal with Warner Bros. TV, a shift was likely unavoidable. Mara Brock Akil spoke for many when she told Fader earlier this year that she was “neutrally curious” about where the show would go. At the time, she didn’t know that Will Packer and Erica Shelton Kodish would go on to be placed in charge of her creative brainchild.
As for what Packer and Kodish have done with the show now that it’s out of its original caretaker’s hands, if the season premiere is any indication, the Akils and longtime fans needn’t fret. Yes, several changes have been made to Being Mary Jane, but the spirit of the show is very much intact. If anything, these changes—namely in setting—have proved vital as the show moves into its fourth season.
When we last saw Mary Jane Paul, she had finally escaped the wrath of a conniving woman seeking to exploit her guilt from a car accident and was regaining her professional footing. Even so, her on-again, off-again “situationship” with David was remaindered off in the wake of his starting a family with another woman. Then there was her brother, Patrick, who finally found work but seemed primed for a return to substance abuse. And of course, those last moments of the third season concluded with Mary Jane’s niece, Niecy, finding herself the victim of racial profiling and police brutality.
The new season of Being Mary Jane is set one year later. While some aspects stick—the sublime score largely sourced in black female singers like Beyoncé and Lion Babe, the infamous quotes splattered across the screen—we meet Mary Jane in new terrain. She is no longer a prime-time anchor for a hot cable news network based in Atlanta. These days, Mary Jane is in the No. 1 media market in America, New York City, working as a correspondent for a morning news show.
What prompted the change is revealed by Mary Jane herself—though, if one is itching for a clue, there’s a cost to speaking with conviction. Mary Jane would love to return to the anchor’s chair, but we learn very quickly that this will be a journey for her. She finds herself working with a black female anchor she grew up idolizing. So far, so good, in terms of their relationship, but with the way news works, who knows how that will go?
Thankfully, Kara, her friend and longtime producer, is with her in New York. As the two celebrate new beginnings, Kara tells Mary Jane, “We rose from the ashes to get to where we are.” She also pushes Mary Jane to recognize that with a new city comes a slew of new men.
Mary Jane is indeed looking for love, but her strategy in attaining that goal, too, has shifted. But what’s always kept Mary Jane close to, though not actually attaining, sincere romantic happiness surfaces minutes into the season premiere. Bless her heart, Mary Jane is so self-destructive.
She does deserve credit for taking new risks and making real efforts to find what she knows she deserves. That said, at one point she is told, “I’m not a miracle worker.”
As for her family, Niecy is suing the police department in the wake of what happened to her, though she is struggling with trying to reconcile not only the trauma of what happened to her but also the horror of her son having to watch it happen. Mary Jane is typically leading the charge of her family, although it’s Niecy’s dad, Patrick, who’s taking the reins for his daughter. That’s a testament to his growth. We see less of the family in the premiere, though, and for a reintroduction of the show, fewer sights of them make sense.
After all, this show is about Mary Jane Paul and Mary Jane Paul’s professional and personal journey. And what makes this show continue to work so well is that it still incorporates into her story issues related to race, gender, sex and politics. I used to find Mary Jane such an unbearable character—to the point where I would refer to the show as Being Debbie Downer. Not every character has to be likable, but it was bewildering to see her do things like store semen in her freezer.
If nothing else, though, Mary Jane is a complicated figure. The complexity makes for good television, although, if the premiere is any suggestion, a new town is going to push Mary Jane to make a choice about whether or not she’ll change her life to yield the results she wants or keep making the same mistakes.
I can’t wait to see how her choice unfolds.
Editor’s note: Because of President Barack Obama’s farewell address, Being Mary Jane will air at 10 p.m. ET on Jan. 10 and return to its regular 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT schedule on BET next week.
The Chicago torture victim, whose abuse was streamed online in a horrific Facebook live video, is receiving an outpouring of support from across the nation with almost $160,000 being raised on his behalf in a GoFundMe campaign, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“The perpetrators have been apprehended and hopefully swift justice will be served. But let’s take an opportunity now to show this young man and his family some financial support during this difficult time of recovery and let him know there are many out there that are here for him,” R.b. Sheldon wrote in the description of the campaign.
So far, more than 5,000 people have pooled together their money over the past five days, more than exceeding the original $10,000 goal.
The lawyer for the teen’s family said that others have sent gifts and cards to a P.O. Box set up by the victim’s sister.
“It has been heartwarming for the family to remember, at least, there’s some niceness out there,” attorney Neal Strom told the Tribune. “Because what’s happened is over the top insane.”
The four individuals were seen on video cutting the disabled 18-year-old’s scalp with a knife and punching him and kicking him, as well as repeatedly pushing his head into a toilet.
Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; Brittany Covington, 28; and Tanishia Covington, 24, are now facing multiple charges, including hate crimes. Authorities say that all four suspects have given statements admitting their roles in the attack.
Strom said that he is working with the family to manage the donations given through the GoFundMe campaign, and is also meeting with mental health experts to help deal with any possible post-traumatic stress.
“Every expert has advised me to tell the family to have as quick an intervention as possible because PTSD is something that, if it in fact manifests itself, needs to be detected early,” Strom said. “No one should assume but it’s something that’s a real possibility. And at least you have to intervene and get into someone’s head to try to figure it out.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
Northwestern women’s basketball player Jordan Hankins was found dead in her room at the university. According to the New York Daily News, Hankins was found unresponsive Monday afternoon.
There appears to be no indication of foul play or “any danger or threat to other members of the Northwestern community,” university spokesman Carsten Parmenter said in a statement.
Women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown has canceled Northwestern’s scheduled game against Minnesota on Wednesday and called the 5-foot-8 sophomore a “remarkably dynamic young woman,” adding that her death is a “devastating loss for our basketball family,” the Daily News reports.
Hankins averaged 3.6 points in 11 games this season.
Read more at the New York Daily News.
It’s no secret that Charles Barkley and Charles Oakley don’t like each other.
When Barkley was with the Houston Rockets and Oakley was still a bruiser for the New York Knicks the two giants once got into a fight during a pre-season game.
The feud was reignited (although I’m not sure it ever died down) during the 2016 playoffs. Barkley noted that Atlanta Hawks needed to play more physical against the Cleveland Cavaliers and “take somebody out” instead of letting themselves get embarrassed with their play. Oakley took to Twitter to note: “Charles Barkley you better stop talking s—t about Cleveland. You was never tough, you hide behind TNT.”
Now, former NBA forward Chucky Brown claims that Oakley smacked fire out of Barkley during an off-court encounter between the two.
Brown gave the blow-by-blow on the “Jerseys & Dress Shirts” podcast with MJ and Dale “The Lawyer” and says he watched the whole thing unfold.
According to Brown the two men ran into each other in a hallway before an NBA player’s union meeting in 1999, and that Oakley open hand smacked the daylights out of Barkley who didn’t retaliate.
Brown also claimed that he witnessed it all unfold and that Barkley refuses to acknowledge the slap every happened.
The entire interview airs January 13.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) could barely get through the opening lines of his speech during his confirmation hearing Tuesday before protests erupted. Two men dressed as Ku Klux Klan members greeted Sessions before the confirmation began, the Daily News reports. The two fake Klansmen were quickly escorted out as one of the men exclaimed, “You can’t arrest me! I’m white!” Women’s- rights and civil rights members of the audience also protested during Sessions’ speech and were quickly escorted out.
Such is the start for the controversial senator, who is the first Trump pick to face the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interrogation. Sessions addressed his less-than-stellar record on race and women’s rights in his opening statement.
“I abhor the Klan and its hateful ideology,” Sessions said, CNN reports. “I never declared the NAACP was un-American.”
HAPPENING NOW: Protestor thrown out of Sessions confirmation hearing. Dressed as klansman. pic.twitter.com/2DPJhg7M8M
— Sam Sweeney (@SweeneyABC) January 10, 2017
Sessions was referring to reported racist remarks that ultimately sank his nomination for U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Alabama in 1986. Sessions reportedly agreed that a white lawyer was a disgrace to his race for representing black clients. Thomas Figures, who is black and was a longtime assistant to Sessions, testified in 1986 that he was often referred to as “boy” and that he’d heard Sessions refer to the NAACP as an “un-American” organization that forces “civil rights down the throats of people, ” ABC News reports.
Sessions also reportedly “joked” that the KKK was all right with him until he learned that they smoked marijuana.
“I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters,” Sessions said Tuesday.
“I have witnessed it. We must continue to move forward and never back,” he continued. “I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our LGBT community. I will ensure that the statutes protecting their civil rights and their safety are full enforced. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse.
“And if I am so fortunate to be confirmed as your attorney general, you can know that I understand the absolute necessity that all my actions must fall within the bounds of the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” he added.
Sessions also said that although he believes that Roe v. Wade—the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the county—violated the Constitution, he would “respect it and follow it,”
Sessions’ hearing is expected to last until Wednesday.