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W. Va. Teacher Suspended Over Racist Tweets Referencing ‘Obama’s Children’

Theroot.com - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 10:10

Them Twitter fingers will get you into trouble real quick.

A social studies teacher at Huntington High School in West Virginia has been suspended with pay and was asked to delete her personal Twitter account, following the discovery of several racially charged tweets shared via that account over more than a year, the Herald-Dispatch reports.

Jedd Flowers, the director of communications with Cabell County Schools, confirmed that the account “pigpen63” was the personal account for the teacher, Mary Durstein, and that Durstein agreed to delete the account in question.

School officials were notified about the offensive tweets over the weekend when Cabell County students and residents sent screenshots of the tweets.

One tweet dated to July 18, 2015, and in which Durstein wrote “#cashinIn #WakeUpAmerica #viewcrew Who cares if we offend Muslims at least they keep their heads on tact. They’re the enemy.”

In one of the more recent tweets from Jan. 5, 2017, Durstein responded to a tweet referencing the black suspects in a horrific kidnapping and attack on a disabled white teen in Chicago, writing, “this could have been Obama’s children.”

She also retweeted posts that condoned the deportation of Muslims and spoke badly of those who support Black Lives Matter.

“The tweets that you have seen—those are things that we do not adhere to,” Cabell County Superintendent Bill Smith said, according to the Herald-Dispatch. “We believe that all children are welcome here—all adults as well—in Cabell County schools. We want to make sure that is clear to our students and clear to the employees that work for us.”

“We expect the same conduct on social media that we do in the classroom,” the superintendent added. “We don’t want to deny teachers the access they can have to the internet or Facebook and all the other stuff they want to have, but they need to be cognizant of who they are speaking to. And when what they say interferes with the educational process, it becomes a problem.”

Flowers commended the students that brought the tweets to the attention of officials, echoing the superintendent’s emphasis on the importance of diversity.

“We want the message to our students to be that all kinds are welcome at Cabell County Schools. We embrace diversity. Inclusion is essential to everything that we do,” Flowers said.

Flowers said Durstein will meet with the superintendent to discuss her actions, moving forward. The social studies teacher has reportedly already requested that she have representation at the meeting although a date for it has not yet been set.

If any further action does take place, the action will have to be approved by the Cabell County Board of Education.

Flowers said that the school system is still looking into whether Durstein violated any of Cabell County Schools policies. According to the Herald-Dispatch, the school system does have an employee code book that reads, “All Cabell County professional employees shall maintain a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, substance abuse, and/or violence, and free from bias and discrimination,” adding that employees shall “create a culture of caring through understanding and support” and “demonstrate responsible citizenship by maintaining a high standard of conduct, self-control, and moral/ethical behavior.”

Read more at the Herald-Dispatch


Closing Arguments to Begin in Sentencing Phase of Dylann Roof’s Death Penalty Trial 

Theroot.com - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 09:42

Closing arguments are set to begin Tuesday in the sentencing phase of the death penalty trial of convicted murderer and white supremacist Dylann Roof, Reuters reports.

U.S. prosecutors and Roof will be presenting arguments on whether Roof should be sentenced to death or face life in prison for the murders of nine black parishioners at a historic, black South Carolina church in June 2015.

According to Reuters, U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said Monday that he was worried about what Roof, who is representing himself, might tell jurors who will weigh in on his sentence.

“I’m just concerned that he will bring up things that aren’t in evidence and talk about his views,” Richardson said in federal court, the news wire reports.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said that such statements will not be permitted.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin shortly after the closing statements. The same jury that found Roof guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, will decide whether he receives the ultimate punishment.

However, if the jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, the default sentence will be life in prison without the possibility of parole, Gergel said.

Jurors heard four days of testimony from prosecution witnesses during the penalty phase, during which family members and friends recounted heartfelt memories about the shooting victims at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Prosecutors also produced evidence that Roof continued to express his white supremacist ideology after his arrest, showing no remorse in his writing in a jail-cell journal.

“I am not sorry,” he wrote. “I do not shed a tear for the innocent people that I killed.”

Roof opted not to offer any witnesses or evidence in his defense, merely giving a two-minute opening statement during which he insisted there was nothing wrong with him psychologically.

Read more at Reuters. 


Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels Built Their Careers on Black Women Stories, but Trade in Misogynoir

Theroot.com - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 06:38

Did they use us just to lose us?

Recent events comments from Hollywood mega producers Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels have raised eyebrows about the ways they use gender and class privilege to distance themselves from the very communities they come from. And they do this all while leveraging patriarchal notions of economic achievement to blame black people for their own lack of access, representation and advancement in the industry.

Tyler Perry has long toed the line between black economic empowerment and outright misogynoir – a term coined by black queer feminist Moya Bailey to describe the ways that racism and sexism combine to create a unique form of oppression of black women –  by writing characters like “Madea” and the “mad black woman” while employing many previously unknown black writers, actresses, and supporting staff who would otherwise remain unknown.

Last August, much to the chagrin of his core audience, Perry debuted a show for TLC called Tyler Perry’s Too Close To Home that featured a predominantly white cast. Since then, the New Orleans native and Atlanta resident has doubled-down on the problematic-ness, telling reporters from the Associated Press just last week that the blowback he received from his longtime fans was “totally reverse racism, because it was coming from African-American people.”

“I don’t know if it was because they thought I should only be giving jobs to black people,” Perry continued. “Well, I think that’s ridiculous. If you look at the hundreds of black people I’ve given jobs to and even the ones I’ve made millionaires, people of color, I just think it’s unfair.”

Let’s be clear: reverse racism is not a thing. It’s never been a thing and it never will be. Ever. But, beyond that deluded notion of structural oppression in the U.S., it is Perry’s sentiment that he has done enough for black people and that many of them only made it in Hollywood because of his graciousness, has alienated so many people from his brand, myself included.

It seems the megastar has forgotten his own experiences of poverty and abuse, experiences that were no doubt rooted in racial and class dis-privilege and exclusion from the white mainstream he so desperately wants a place in now.

Similarly, Lee Daniels, who has produced films like Monster’s Ball (2001) and Precious (2009), both awarded Oscars, SAG, and many other awards, has contributed to a broader understanding of blackness — especially where it concerns black women. His hit show Empire continues to push audiences to think differently about same-sex love, racism, sexism and drug addiction among other things. However, much of his work has rested iconic black female characters; Cookie Lyon (played by Taraji P. Henson), Precious (played by Gabby Sidibe) and Leticia Musgrove (played by Halle Berry) are all complex and imperfect characters, each of whom experiences some form of race-based discrimination, drug addiction, criminality, or sexual abuse.

Yet, with this cadre of racialized and gendered stories and characters, Daniels continues to deny the existence of racism, just last month telling the cast of The Real “I wouldn’t be where I was if I embraced racism. If I embraced it, then it became real. And if it became real, I would be an angry black man.” In the same interview, he explained that he chose to pick a white girl to lead his new show Star — about the evolution of a girl’s singing group in the South — because “this white girl is so fabulous that black people will embrace her and white people will embrace her.”

In a sense, Daniels has cultivated his career by centering poverty-porn like stories of black women, children and families but now sees his position of privilege in Hollywood as an opportunity to center white femininity. While this choice may seem aesthetic or immaterial, it has concrete economic implications — not to mention the fact that it says something about what types of women Daniels believes are “embrace”-able.

After getting epically dragged on Twitter for these comments, Daniels continued with his word vomit by suggesting that black people should employ the bootstraps method of black success. He told the New York Times on Dec. 28 that people claiming that #OscarsSoWhite is holding back black actors should “Go out and do the work…Oscars so white! So what? Do your work. Let your legacy speak and stop complaining, man. Are we really in this for the awards?”

Because that’s the issue. Black people just aren’t working hard enough.

In a moment of double-talk, Daniels lashed out at the “complainers” saying “These whiny people that think we’re owed something are incomprehensible and reprehensible to me. I don’t expect acknowledgment or acceptance from white America. I’m going to be me.” It’s odd how he can create a television show with a white female lead he hopes will appeal to both white and black viewers but, yet, he isn’t concerned with being accepted by white people. Confounding even.

Each of these men, while seemingly committed to the empowerment of black people en masse –  especially impoverished and underrepresented black women — show that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. They built their careers off of the support of working class black folk and the exploitation of stereotypical black female characters only to kneel at the altar of whiteness in the hopes of gaining even more capital and accolades from the white mainstream.

Perry and Daniels remind us that black men still benefit from patriarchy. And, patriarchy has always had economic implications. Once these men bought into the mechanisms of capitalism as a form of deliverance from the blackness and the womanness they actually scorn, they also inherited the classed and gendered hatreds that come along with it.

It remains to be seen how these two, highly influential men will address race, gender and class in the future. However, at this point, it might be best for us to expect the worst.

Jenn M. Jackson is a writer, editor and magic black girl from the future. Follow her on Twitter and read more at her website.


For New Showrunner Erica Shelton Kodish, Being Mary Jane Is Personal

Theroot.com - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 06:07

When it was announced that husband-and-wife creative duo Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil had scored a new development deal and would be leaving their successful BET series Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union, many wondered if the show could survive. And now it’s largely up to Erica Shelton Kodish, Being Mary Jane’s new showrunner, to answer that question.

It’s very doubtful you’ve ever heard of Erica Shelton Kodish, but do remember there was a time you had never heard of Courtney Kemp Agboh, who helms Power. Both are alums of CBS’ game-elevating series The Good Wife, so that’s more than encouraging regarding Kodish’s talent.

“It was a phenomenal show to work on,” says the Northwestern and USC graduate. “It was a really smart room. There were very intelligent, talented writers in that room, so just being in that room raised your game in many respects. But then I think the approach to storytelling on The Good Wife was very instructive for me because it really went against this idea of everything sort of being tied up in a neat little bow and the happy ending and things working out, and I just really started trying to deal with the gray of things.”

The experience of dealing in the gray area is definitely an asset for this season of Being Mary Jane. Mary Jane Paul has seized the career opportunity of a lifetime and is headed to New York City, leaving Atlanta and family behind. This new swing back into Mary Jane’s professional life is one many women in similar Loubies may appreciate most.

“Once you achieve a certain level, it’s not as if you no longer have any work challenges,” Kodish explains. “As a working professional, there are always challenges, either new mountains to climb or there are always changes. We wanted to maintain this idea that there are still things that she has to deal with on the work front, and that is very much a part of her character and who she is and all of that, and the challenge of trying to do those things and find love and have a personal life that fulfills you and makes you happy, and doing all of it is part of what’s challenging.”

It’s a challenge for which Kodish is uniquely qualified. “It’s a good fit for me because I had so many things in common with Mary Jane in that I was a working professional woman, I didn’t get married until very late and [was familiar with] dealing with the challenges of trying to find love while you have a very demanding career in a competitive environment, and then also having family responsibilities in a family that, in many ways, kind of relies on you,” she explains. “So there were so many elements of it that really resonated with me personally where I felt like it was a true opportunity for me to tell these grounded stories.”

Because this opportunity came at an interesting period of Kodish’s own life, it was not an automatic “Yes” for her. “I didn’t see myself in that role at this point and time in my career,” she reveals. “It’s something that I wanted, but given I had just had a baby and had just come off three years of being on The Good Wife, I was looking forward to taking a break.”

Gabrielle Union’s charm and persistence definitely helped sway her, but Courtney Agboh Kemp was just as, or even more, influential. “Before I took the job, there were a few calls that I made, and I spoke with Courtney for sure, and Courtney was very honest about just how challenging and difficult it is. She’s in a similar situation in that she does have a small child, so she didn’t sugarcoat it,” shares Kodish.

“It’s challenging, but I think part of what helped me take the leap and make the decision is that there were people like Courtney who were very encouraging and open to ‘I’m a phone call away,’ and those calls have been made at various points. Had I not had that, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” she admits.

As far as Being Mary Jane’s new direction is concerned, Kodish says it’s a juggling act for sure. “We wanted to bring some freshness to the series and sort of take it in a different direction, but we also didn’t want to alienate the loyal viewers. We didn’t want people to tune in and say ‘What is this? I don’t even recognize Mary Jane.’ So it’s a fine line in introducing some new elements but still maintaining some of what made Mary Jane Mary Jane.”

This season, viewers will let her know if they succeeded.

The new season of Being Mary Jane premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on BET.


U.S. Ethics Office Warns Trump Nominee Confirmations Are Moving Too Fast

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 23:52

The Office of Government Ethics on Saturday warned that confirmation hearings for Trump nominees are moving too fast.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that was released Saturday, NPR reports that  OGE director Walter Shaub wrote that “the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me” and that the current schedule “has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.

“More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings,” Shaub continued. “I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.”

Shaub noted that OGE has yet to receive financial disclosures for some picks set to come before Congress this week, and explained that the Ethics in Government Act requires presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate must have OGE certification of their financial disclosures prior to any congressional hearings.

Shaub wrote that such a process is “complex” and “labor intensive,” and takes “weeks, not days” to ensure that the Senate has a clear picture of any possible conflicts of interest.

According to NPR, a GOP source noted that in the past the OGE paperwork hasn’t always preceded hearings. As an example, in 2001, Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Education, had his hearing over a week before the committee received the OGE paperwork.

Confirmation hearings are set to begin this week for several of Trump’s nominees for top cabinet positions so that they can be voted on and sworn in as soon as possible after Trump takes office on Jan. 20. NPR notes the following:

  • Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security nominee, retired Gen. John Kelly, are set for hearings on Tuesday.
  • On Wednesday, hearings are set for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, whose close ties to Russia as Exxon Mobil CEO have come under scrutiny, along with Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao.
  • On Thursday, hearings are set for Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson and Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross. A hearing on retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Defense Secretary nominee, is also scheduled.

Read more at NPR.


Condoleezza Rice Endorses Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 22:58

Former secretary of state Condolezza Rice on Monday endorsed Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General under President-elect Donald Trump.

Rice, an Alabama native herself, wrote a letter of appreciation to Sen. Chuck Grassley about Sessions, and CNN reports that she said Sessions, a “friend,” is someone she admired “greatly.”

“He is a man who is committed to justice and knows that law and order are necessary to guarantee freedom and liberty,” Rice wrote.

Rice, who was the first Black woman to serve as secretary of state, also said that Sessions has worked hard to heal the wounds in Alabama brought on by the “prejudice and injustice against descendants of slaves.”

As previously reported on The Root, in 1986 Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Alabama. He was not confirmed by the Senate because there were concerns about past comments he had allegedly made about desegregation and civil rights groups. Then-Sen. Joe Biden urged Reagan to withdraw Sessions from consideration after Thomas Figures, an African-American former deputy of Sessions, testified that Sessions had once warned him to be careful about what he said “to white folks,” and confirmed allegations that Sessions had called the NAACP “un-American.” That same deputy said that Sessions had called him “boy” on more than one occasion and had said that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

As CNN notes, those old allegations are likely to dog him as he goes into his confirmation hearings on Tuesday, and an endorsement from Rice could help him gain the support he needs from the Senate.

Rice also noted that Sessions spearheaded the effort to award the Congressional Gold Medal to one of her “personal heroes,” Rosa Parks.

“I know that Sen. Sessions will uphold the laws of our country and will work to ensure that every person here in the United States is given the voice that is deserved,” Rice wrote.

Read more at CNN.


Handcuffed Suspect in Texas Who Reportedly Shot Himself in Back of Patrol Car Dies

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 21:43

A Texas man died Monday one day after reportedly shooting himself while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

According to a statement from Austin police, 19-year-old Zachary Khabir Anam died at University Medical Center-Brackenridge, ABC News reports.

Anam was taken into custody on Sunday at the Barton Creek Square shopping mall after being detained by private security officers on suspicion of shoplifting and carrying a controlled substance.

Interim Police Chief Brian Manley told ABC News that Anam was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car heading to police headquarters in downtown Austin when he managed to reach around to his right side, grab a handgun that was hidden in his waistband and pointed the weapon at his own head with threats to shoot himself.

The unidentified officer at the wheel stopped the vehicle, got out, and ordered Anam to drop the weapon. Back and forth threats went on for six minutes until Anam shot himself, Manley said.

Manley said confrontation was captured on the dashboard camera of the police car trailing the one Anam was riding in.

A police spokeswoman would not say if Anam had been searched thoroughly for weapons, but Manley said that would be the focus of an internal investigation on Monday.

Even if the suspect had been previously searched and handcuffed by the private security at the mall, Austin Police Department policy holds each officer responsible for searching each person taken into custody for weapons.

The officer who had Anam in custody has been with the force for 11 years.

It’s puzzling that a man suspected of shoplifting was not thoroughly searched by both the private security in the mall and the police officers who came to take him into custody, especially given the fact that he was also accused of carrying a controlled substance, something that could only be determined by searching him in the first place.

Even more puzzling is how a man handcuffed in the back of a police managed to get a weapon out of his waistband, angle it properly to shoot himself in the head, and threaten to do so.

Anam was no stranger to law enforcement; in April 2016 he was arrested for drug possession, and in May 2016 Austin police issued a warrant accusing him of engaging in a string of burglaries and auto thefts.

There does not appear to be any previous mention of him engaging in violent crimes or carrying a weapon.

Read more at ABC News.


Va. Couple Leaves ‘We Don’t Tip Black People’ Note on bill For Black Waitress

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 20:27

A waitress in Ashburn, Va., says a couple she provided service to Saturday left a racist note instead of a tip on their bill before leaving.

Kelly Carter is a waitress at Anita’s New Mexico Style Cafe in Ashburn, and she told WJLA that she was shocked to see the note on the bill after the couple ate on Saturday morning.

The 20-something white man and woman wrote “Great service don’t tip black people” at the bottom of the bill after paying by credit card.

Anita’s owner Tommy Tellez, Sr., told WJLA “I’m appalled. This is so disheartening.”

Tellez told WJLA that Carter is a loyal employee and beloved by her customers.

“She has a following,” Tellez said. “Her philosophy for customer service is way beyond the norm, and we’re really happy to have her.”

Carter told WJLA that the couple were like any other customers; they acted no differently and gave no indication that they were unhappy with her for any reason. She said the woman customer even complimented the food.

“The lady was saying they loved the pot pie meal,” Carter said.

It was two of Carter’s regular customers who posted the bill on Facebook. They noticed her reaction to the message and were outraged by the incident. According to WJLA, the Facebook post had been shared nearly 900 times by Sunday night.

The local NAACP is also spreading word of the incident.

Loyal customers of Carter have been offering her support. The restaurant manager said that many of come in to eat and requested her as their server, leaving generous tips. Others have simply stopped by to give her hugs and offer her money.

“People were just coming in dropping cash off,” Tommy Tellez, Jr., said.

Carter told WJLA that she thinks she recognized the male customer from a recent pick up order at the restaurant She is not letting the incident discourage her and showed up for her shift as scheduled at 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

“The customer didn’t hurt me. He only hurt himself. He only makes me stronger, Carter said.

She added that if the couple were to show up in the restaurant again, she would still serve them.

“Just me serving them will let them know they did not get the best of me. And I truly mean that,” Carter said.

Read more at WJLA.


Texas Cop Who Violently Arrested Mom in Littering Dispute Suspended for 10 Days 

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 16:25

A white, Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who was caught on video violently arresting two black women following an argument about a child littering will be suspended without pay for 10 days, authorities announced Monday, Time reports.

According to the report, the Fort Worth Police Department launched an internal investigation late last month after video of the arrest went viral. Jacqueline Craig, the mother in the video, reported an assault on her young son after the boy was apparently choked by a neighbor over littering.

When the officer, identified as William Martin, turned a deaf ear to Craig’s pleas, the situation unraveled. Martin can be seen pushing Craig to the ground and pressing a Taser into her back, before pointing the Taser at Craig’s children. Martin also pushes Craig’s 19-year-old daughter, Brea Hymond, to the ground and arrests her as well.

Martin had been on “restricted status duty” until Monday, when officials concluded their probe and placed him on suspension.

“Officer Martin was contrite. He’s ready to get back to work. He’s very sorry for what has transpired,” Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Monday at a news conference, calling the incident an “isolated” one and adding that the suspension was a “significant punishment,” Time notes.

Time reports that an internal investigation found Martin showed “discourtesy” and had “inappropriate contact” with at least one of the women that he arrested, Fitzgerald acknowledged, and that he will undergo training, while still being allowed to return to patrol the same neighborhood.

According to the report, a lawyer representing Craig, S. Lee Merritt, blasted the light punishment, calling on the officer to be fired and face criminal charges.

Read more at Time


Massive Manhunt Underway for Suspect who Fatally Shot Orlando, Fla. Police Officer

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 14:37

A massive manhunt is underway in Florida after a man fatally shot an Orlando police officer on Monday morning, the Associated Press reports.

According to the wire, Orlando Police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was gunned down near a Walmart store in northwest Orlando earlier Monday. The suspect has been identified as 41-year-old Markeith Loyd, who was also a suspect in the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend last December.

“He should be considered armed and dangerous,”  Police Chief John Mina said at a press conference. “He will be brought to justice.”

Mina praised the fallen officer as a “committed” part of the team and “a hero” who gave her life to the community she loves. Clayton was a 17-year veteran on the force, and leaves behind her spouse and two children. Clayton loved children and always had a smile and a high five for every child she came across, the department said.

According to the AP, authorities released a video of Clayton’s body being taken out of the hospital to a waiting van in a flag-covered stretcher. A line of officers saluted the stretcher as it was wheeled out.

The Orlando Police Department family is heartbroken today. One of our own was taken in the line of duty. There are no words. pic.twitter.com/M48o1nnr4h

— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) January 9, 2017

It is believed that Clayton Either recognized Loyd or was tipped off about his locations when she approached him early  Monday morning. Loyd fired multiple shots at the officer, fatally wounding her.

Officials said that Loyd was seen fleeing in the Orlando police officer’s vehicle, and then pulled into a nearby apartment complex, before opening fire at a deputy, hitting the deputy’s SUV twice. The deputy was unharmed.

Loyd then allegedly carjacked another vehicle and drove away, before abandoning the second vehicle not too far away, the sheriff’s office said, according to the AP.

Another officer, an Orange County motorcycle deputy, was killed shortly after Clayton’s death in a vehicular accident that occurred while searching for the suspect in Clayton’s murder.

“We’re sad on this day for many reasons,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a morning news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Demings did not identify the deputy, saying that relatives were still being notified.

Authorities are offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to Loyd’s whereabouts, WFTV reports.

If you know the location of Markeith Loyd reward is up to $60,000. Please call @CrimelineFL pic.twitter.com/hHrf8bMDWt

— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) January 9, 2017

“We’re going to bring this dirtbag to justice and he’s going to jail,” Mina said.

A witness to the shooting at Walmart, James Herman, told WFTV that the suspect “was an average-looking dude,” who “had a security vest and everything.”

“I was walking down the sidewalk right past the officer, and I heard her tell him to stop, or whatever, and he shot her. He shot her down. He took of running. It’s unreal,” Herman added.

Read more at the Associated Press and WFTV. 


Amazon.com, FreshDirect to Accept Food Stamps for Online Grocery Shopping

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 10:47

Soon it will be that much easier for busy families who use food stamps to get groceries.

According to Mashable, online grocery-shopping sites such as Amazon.com and FreshDirect will now accept food stamps as part of a pilot program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report notes that the two-year program for families participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program will start in the summer and affect families in parts of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state.

“Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP.”

Grocers such as Safeway, ShopRite, HyVee, Hart’s Local Grocers and Dash’s Market will also be included in the program through their online grocery services. According to the report, the Department of Agriculture is trying to figure out whether local grocers, or national services like Amazon.com, will work best for families that use SNAP.

The pilot program will also be used to determine whether to allow online payment or to go with just online ordering and in-person payment. Customers will only be able to use food stamps to pay for eligible items that do not include service or delivery fees for online ordering.

The government is also planning to add additional retailers in hopes of eventually offering the online option for SNAP participants across the nation.

Read more at Mashable.



NJ High School Investigating Girls Basketball Team’s Find of Hanging Black Dummy

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 09:38

Officials at the Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, N.J., plan to investigate an incident in which a visiting girls basketball team found a black dummy hanging from its neck in a room they were assigned, the Courier News and Home Tribune reports.

According to the report, when girls from the Plainfield High School basketball team arrived at the Arthur L. Johnson school for an 11 a.m. game Saturday, the girls found a black dummy hanging from its neck by a string with a basketball attached to it.

The Plainfield girls opened the door to a classroom they were given to use as a team room and were greeted by the dummy, which had eyes that appeared to be bulging from its head and a gaping mouth, the Tribune describes.

Plainfield first-year head coach Keshon Bennett confirmed the discovery and said that his team continued to play after seeing the dummy, ultimately losing 64-20. The Plainfield girls quickly left the school after the game was over.

“We have been made aware that a picture taken by the coach or a member of the Plainfield girl’s basketball team has been posted on social media of a puppet that was reportedly posed in a classroom located in the Clark Public Schools,” Edward Grande, superintendent of Clark Public Schools, said in a statement. “The Clark Board Education and the Clark community does not condone any demonstrations of intolerance.”

According to the Tribune, state census data from 2010 show that Plainfield High had an African-American population of 50 percent, compared with Johnson High’s black population of 0.8 percent that same year.

Read more at the Courier News and Home Tribune.


ACLU of Mass.: Plan to Use Inmates to Build Border Wall ‘Modern-Day Slave Labor’

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 08:54

Last week, during his swearing-in ceremony, Bristol County (Mass.) Sheriff Thomas Hodgson proposed offering inmates as free labor if President-elect Donald Trump should decide to go forth with his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

As it turns out, some civil rights advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts included, aren’t very keen on the idea.

“The proposal is perverse,” Laura Rótolo, staff counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts told the Boston Globe in a phone interview. “It’s inhumane, and it’s most likely unconstitutional. It’s also likely an attempt by Sheriff Hodgson just to ride this wave and become famous nationally. … I hope we don’t have to take this proposal seriously.”

Rótolo added that the ACLU would take any steps necessary, including taking Hodgson to court, if he insisted on “this gimmick” of sending inmates to the border.

“The wall itself … is based on racism and hatred, and no self-respecting Massachusetts official should have anything to do with it,” she added, blasting the plan as “modern-day slave labor.”

“The idea of using modern-day slave labor to send people thousands of miles away from their Massachusetts home to build a wall to keep out other vulnerable populations—it’s just preposterous,” she said.

Read more at the Boston Globe


Getaway from Reality with These 5 Inauguration Day Escapes

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 06:46

We can’t escape the reality that Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. And although the last few months have felt like the end of the world, as we know it — we can literally escape watching, hearing about or even giving a second thought to the Trump Inauguration in D.C. on January 20. To help you get as far away from your cable box, laptop and smart phone as possible, here are five getaway destinations where you’ll be too busy soaking up the sun and tuning out negativity to worry about politics or anything else.

Aruba Generic image.iStock

Located in warm waters of the southern Caribbean, Aruba is known as “one happy island” for a reason. To forget your troubles and get happy, book a private casita at the Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, equipped with a kitchen, barbecue grill and private hammock. Although each apartment-style room comes with a TV, there’s also an intimate pool on the well-manicured grounds and a beach within walking distance — so you won’t be tempted to watch it. And the only thing you’ll want to use your phone for is to take photos of the boutique hotel’s two adorable resident cats. While in Aruba, spend a morning communing with nature at the tranquil Butterfly Farm. Then go on a bumpy but exhilarating sightseeing jeep tour with De Palm Tours, which includes a dip in a remote natural pool. You will be so shaken up — in a good way — the Trump madness will be the last thing on your mind.

Paradise Island, Bahamas Generic image.iStock

Practice sun salutations to your heart’s content at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram Retreat on Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Yoga Retreat is open year-round and can be booked for any length of stay — from a weekend to a few weeks. So spend some much needed downtime recharging your spiritual batteries instead of your cell phone.

Accommodations are modest, and the daily routine includes early morning silent meditation; a two-hour class of yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama); healthy vegetarian meals; free time for the beach and reflection; evening meditation, chanting and talking (satsang); and inspirational guest speakers. There are no TVs, and each day winds down around 10:00 p.m. with mandatory lights-off.

Havana, Cuba Vintage classic american car in Havana, Cuba.iStock

JetBlue offers daily non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and New York City to Cuba’s capital city, Havana. While travel to Cuba is more accessible now thanks to President Obama, U.S. travelers still need a visa (JetBlue provides tourists with one for $50 at the airport check-in) and must meet one of 12 travel guidelines including: family visits; educational activities (this is open to everyone as long as you keep a full-time schedule and have “meaningful interaction” with Cuban natives); professional research and meetings; and journalistic activities. But it’s worth the red tape to experience the culture, cuisine and Spanish colonial scenery that remains largely untouched by westernized commercialization. That means no Starbucks or McDonald’s, yet. Also, most American cell phones still don’t work in Cuba (Verizon and Sprint offer roaming service), and Wi-Fi access is hard to come by.

Tecate, Mexico Generic image.iStock

Renew your mind, body and spirit at Rancho La Puerta, a famed fitness and spa retreat an hour’s drive from San Diego in sunny Tecate, Mexico (don’t forget your passport). Guests at the scenic resort, in the shadow of the Baja California’s mystical Mt. Kuchumaa, are encouraged to take a digital detox — there’s no Wi-Fi or TV in the guest casitas, and cell phone use is prohibited in public areas. But you’ll be too busy hiking, taking fitness and healthy cooking classes, sitting in Lotus position and getting spa treatments to miss the latest memes.

Costa Rica A path in Mistico hanging bridges park, Arenal, Costa Rica looks magical in a fog and mist.iStock

Located a few miles from the lively Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo, Samsati Retreat & Rainforest Sanctuary is set in a 250-acre Costa Rican Rainforest overlooking the Caribbean Sea. There’s no air conditioning, however, screened ventilation in each of the wood-paneled casitas filters in fresh, natural air. There are no TVs on site, and Wi-Fi is limited to the resort’s open-air restaurant and lounge areas. Free of daily digital device distractions, guests spend time lounging in hammocks, chasing waterfalls, and taking guided nature walks and daily yoga classes. We’re in. Trump, who?


The Natural-Hair Movement Should Extend to Men’s Hairlines

Theroot.com - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 06:15

Black women’s overall progress is reflected in their heightened investment in natural hair. The current natural-hair movement is more a consequence of black women’s empowerment than it is a cause. Nevertheless, by claiming natural hair as the standard of beauty, black men can also encourage grooming practices that increase personal, political and economic self-awareness—and in the process develop a better self-concept.

The principles that eschew perms for black women should also apply to black men. No, Yung Joc’s relaxed bouffant isn’t trending. However, our fetishes with razor-straight hairlines aren’t healthy. You simply don’t need such a radical shaping of your hairline (or beard) with your haircut to look or feel good. But black men’s insecurities around hairlines confirm that we do have body-image issues. Niki @TheNiksTape said it best in her tweet:

You want to get a dude tight? Stare at him with a confused look your face then ask: “yo, your barber pushed your [s–t] back?”

Horrible haircuts are actually made possible by our dehumanizing beliefs in “good” hairlines. To be human is to have widow’s peaks and subtle valleys in your hairline. The left edge may be a little higher than the right. Some folks’ lines resemble a crescent moon; when I was growing up in Pittsburgh, we called them Mac Tonight. In order to straighten what God made perfect, the barber must shear or razor the line, only for sandpaper-looking “new growth” to surface a few days later. Razor linings for men are actually less permanent than perms (no shade to Yung Joc) are for women.

A haircut shouldn’t look bad after four days. Yeah, some stragglers can and will appear as nature takes its course. But the front of your head shouldn’t look and feel like a Brillo pad less than a week after you get a cut. But when your barber is using a level to cut your hairline straight, you’re the problem, not your hair. The practice and tradition of carving a perfectly straight hairline is just ripe for failure. You actually make mistakes every time you cut into one.

There’s nothing worse than a 7-year-old coming back home looking like George Jefferson. That kid may avoid school for weeks to save him from ribbing. In that scenario, the barber also suffers. One blunder can have patrons send a barber into barbershop exile. The barber who sits in his own chair facing a crowded shop is actually paying for a shape-up “mistake” he may have made 20 years ago, when, in fact, our penchant for straightness really failed us.

The black community is negatively affected by our hairline anxieties.

How many videos of bad haircuts, fights over bad haircuts and insults caused by razor linings do we need before we acknowledge that hairline insecurities accentuate deeper body issues that men have?

It’s time that black men joined the natural-hair movement and refused dramatic hairline shaping. We should embrace our natural beauty and end hairline shaming that has become a rite of passage among men and boys. Make a natural hairline your top New Year’s resolution for 2017. I’m posing a natural-hairline challenge.

As someone who rocked dreadlocks for more than a decade, I never shaped my hairline, and I looked great. I still groomed my hair. I visited my “loctician” weekly. I allowed my hairdresser to cut meandering neck hair in the back, but even that was trimmed to follow my hair’s natural pattern.

Now I go to the barber regularly. Sometimes I rock the nappy ’fro; other times I go with a dark fade. As I get older, the decision to embrace my natural line gets easier. I want every millimeter I can get.

But I’m not calling for natural hairlines based on my own vanity issues. Embracing who I am produces a powerful aesthetic. Natural looks better.

I’ll correct myself. There is something worse than a 7-year-old coming back home looking like George Jefferson: someone with a hairline like George Jefferson trying to look like adult Drake on the Nothing Was the Same album.

When did we move away from the “imperfect” hairstyles worn by Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire and Das EFX? Shout-out to Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Chance the Rapper for being happy to be nappy.

I’m not saying don’t go to a barbershop. I’m just saying, have your barber work with your natural hairline. Remove askew or wayward hairs. But being neat or sharp doesn’t involve altering who you are. And that includes your hairline.


President Obama Pens 55-Page Article on Criminal Justice

Theroot.com - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 14:20

President Obama returned to his Harvard Law Review roots (he was the first black president of hundred-plus year old journal in his last year at the school) as he penned a 55-page-article on criminal justice reform, how his administration has moved the needle, and how far we have to go.

Entitled “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” the piece appeared in the January 2017 edition of the illustrious book, and according to Harvard magazine, “largely restates the bipartisan case for criminal-justice reform, with an emphasis on mass incarceration’s financial cost.”

Obama did touch on the racial bias in our criminal justice policymaking in the article, writing,

A large body of research finds that, for similar offenses, members of the African American and Hispanic communities are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to harsher penalties. Rates of parental incarceration are two to seven times higher for African American and Hispanic children. Over the past thirty years, the share of African American adults with a past felony conviction—and who have paid their debt to society—has more than tripled, and one in four African American men outside the correctional system now has a felony record. This number is in addition to the one in twenty African American men under correctional supervision…The system of mass incarceration has endured for as long as it has in part because of the school-to-prison pipeline and political opposition to reform that insisted on ‘a stern dose of discipline—more policy, more prisons, more personal responsibility, and an end to welfare.’ Today, however, much of that opposition has receded, replaced by broad agreement that policies put in place in that era are not a good match for the challenges of today.”

In the last few weeks, Obama has been on a blitz  to highlight and defend his legacy (including having all of his Cabinet heads release their achievements over the last eight years) as a wildcard Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress are set to take over the country in the next two weeks.

Obama was the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, and he has commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 inmates, more than all of his predecessors combined.

Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump released some tweets this week and got into a Twitter beef with the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, over ratings over The Celebrity Apprentice.

Read the entire HLR article here.


Ala.’s Black Belt Hit Hard by Voter Supression Measures

Theroot.com - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 11:08

Voter suppression is alive and well, and a case in Alabama’s Black Belt proves it.

When the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced the closure of 31 driver’s license offices in 2015, a journalist in the state showed that the state’s “Black Belt”— the region of Alabama that takes its name first from the color of its soil as well as for the high concentration of African-Americans who live there—was especially hard hit.

In fact, Alabama.com reports that of the the 10 counties with the highest proportion of black folk, the state closed driver’s license offices in eight. Journalist Kyle Whitmire reports that the closures came on the heels of Alabama requiring photo ID at the polls, a change the state enacted immediately after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013.

This is significant because DMV offices are where most folks can get the most common form of photo ID.

Alabama.com reports that the closures saved the state very little in revenue, reportedly between $200,000 and $300,000, but the “routine shortfalls in the General Fund budget typically range from $100 million to $200 million,” giving new meaning to a drop in the bucket.

After being sued by the NAACP last month, the United States Department of Transportation investigated and found “that African Americans residing in the Black Belt region of Alabama disproportionately underserved by ALEA’s driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race.”

Under an agreement struck between the state and federal agencies, ALEA agreed to reopen and add more hours of service to the Black Belt offices.

Many believe this is just one of many acts of suppression that blacks in Southern states will face moving forward, especially in light of the new administration and possibly a more conservative Supreme Court.

Read more at Alabama.com.


Colin Kaepernick Donates Huge Sneaker Collection to Bay Area Orphanages, Shelters

Theroot.com - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 10:00

San Francisco back up quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has stood for the sanctity of black lives by kneeling during the National Anthem, is giving away at least a portion of his colossal footwear collection to Bay Area homeless shelters and orphanages, according to a video posted on Instagram by his girlfriend, DJ Nessa.

Kaepernick, who is known for his massive collection of kicks (mostly of Nikes since he has an endorsement deal with them) may be taking the Buddhist philosophy of letting go to heart.

Since he started showing off his collection on Instagram in June of 2012, the QB has reportedly amassed hundreds of pairs of pristine kicks—so many in fact, that he converted his garage into a walk in shoe closet.

The shoe donation is in addition to Kaepernick’s Million Dollar pledge in which he promised that will donate $100,000 per month for 10 months to various organizations in oppressed communities. He began disbursing the monies in October, and has donated money to grassroots organizations as varied as Causa Justa in the Bay Area, Mothers Against Police Brutality in Dallas; the I Will Not Die Young campaign in Milwaukee and Appetite for Change in Minneapolis.

And though Kap reportedly is a shoe size 13-14, the fact is even if the shoes are too big for individuals, these sneakers on will turn a pretty penny on the resale market for those individuals and organizations who receive them (we’re talking about immaculate, pristine kicks worn by a professional quarterback here.)

It’s no wonder Kaepernick received the “2016 Len Eshmont Award” from his teammates this year. He is truly a courageous humanitarian not only in word but in deed.

Right on, Kap!


Reader Review: "Victoria"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 06:00
by Emily (Florida): Everything I have previously read about about Queen Victoria had to do with her later years as a Mother, Wife, and grieving Widow. This book, dealing with her childhood years and her years immediately following her Coronation, gave me a much complete picture of how she become the woman she was after her marriage to Albert and in her later years. This thoroughly researched book, because of the Author's inclusion of Victoria's early diaries, included rich and intimate details that made me feel as though I was an eyewitness to all that was going on in her early life. We will be using this book as a Bookclub selection in March. I am anxious to hear the reactions of our club members to both the book and the way it is presented in Masterpiece Theater.


What’s Ailing Bishop Eddie Long?

Theroot.com - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 02:08

I’m concerned about Bishop Eddie Long.

In August of 2016, Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, went viral after video showed that he’d lost an alarming amount of weight.

“People are asking, ‘Bishop, what happened to all of you,’” he said on a video posted to Facebook that has since been taken down. “Well, all of me has melted away.”

He told his congregation that he wanted to live until 100 (!) and said he would not get there “stopping by Popeyes. That was my weakness. The biscuits with honey and chicken wings, spicy. … I’m on the medicine that God gave you to feed your immune system to build you up. You know what, if you really want to move through this world and have influence, you gotta be spiritual and you have to walk by His Commandments and you have to be healthy.”

He said that he’d committed himself to a diet of “raw vegetables” and insisted that he was not ill, nor on any medications.

I didn’t buy it. He looked sickly, emaciated. There had to be more to the story.

In September, Bishop Long released a statement reading in part:

“I am recovering from a health challenge that I trust God to deliver me from. It is unrelated to the eating-for-life diet, consisting of mostly raw vegetables, that I am continuing as part of a holistic approach to good health.”

And in October, as he celebrated his pastoral anniversary, he declared:

“I’ve been on a journey and just recalibrating myself, and like I said, I had some health issues and God has healed me. The manifestation is coming through, and we stand in that. When I woke up this morning, God expressed to me that there are some of you who suffer in this congregation of chronic pain. You have to be controlled by painkillers. If I’m speaking to you jump in the aisle. There’s a healing balm in here.”

He then had a healing service.

In February 2006, during the funeral for Coretta Scott King, Bishop Eddie Long is shown seated next to the Rev. Bernice King at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.JASON REED/AFP/Getty Images

All this troubles my soul.

I don’t know what ails Bishop Long. I’m interested in neither speculation nor gossip about his condition. On social media, I have seen people weigh in trying to guess his “health challenge.” Some have gone so far as to say that they do not think he will live long. I find that all distasteful and untoward.

Indeed, the bishop has a checkered past that would raise suspicions about his secrecy now, but, having grown up in the church and been in ministry for years, I understand why he might feel the need to withhold information from his congregation because, let’s just be honest, black church folks are nosey—especially when it comes to the “passah.”

If the pastor buys a new car, they notice; if he buys a new suit, they may say he is too flashy; if he wears an old suit, they may call him raggedy; if she gains weight, they may call her too big; if she loses weight, they may say she think she’s all that. Put simply: There is no winning if you are charged with leading a black congregation.

Sometimes it’s genuine concern that leads church folks to speculate about how things are in the pastor’s life; other times, it’s merely for the sake of gossip. That’s why I understand Long’s secrecy; his need for privacy as he deals with the health challenges he faces. Yet, there is also an unrealized opportunity for spiritual edification.

Too often, black Christians subscribe to what I call “magical thinking.” Instead of addressing the real, existential causes of what ails them, they seek spiritual solutions. Broke? Don’t budget, pray about it. Overweight? Don’t make better health choices … pray about it.

This kind of thinking is a distortion of the thought of Paul where he says in Ephesians 6:12, “We struggle not against flesh and blood, but … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What’s so dangerous about this line of thought is that unethical preachers often exploit it for financial gain. You’ll find them on BET late at night peddling holy water for a small fee—and you’d be surprised by how many people fall victim to that kind of exploitation.

That’s why, despite the nosiness of black church folks, I would love to see Bishop Long come out and discuss what ails him with honesty and humility. His “God delivered me” talk is fine, but discussing what he had to do to help that process might encourage someone who is dealing with a similar health challenge … because I’m sure he prayed, but I’m also confident that it took more than prayer if, indeed, he is healed.

I wish the best for Bishop Long. I hope he is healed, and I hope that he continues with his healthy lifestyle. I also hope that he will consider opening up about the health challenges he faces—if for no other reason than to encourage someone else who may need more than just prayer.