Former NFL running back Edgerrin James doesn’t keep his savings in a bank; instead he keeps ungodly amounts of cash in a box. That’s right the one-time Indianapolis Colts great posted a photo on Instgram showing the savings he accumulated in 2016 inside a box he calls his “Vice Boxxx.”
According to TMZ Sports, James puts $100 a day in the box and an additional $200 on weekends. At the end of the day, James also takes any small bills like $1s, $5s, and $10s and deposits them into the box. The photo appeared to show thousands of dollars in cash. So much cash that James figured he would have fun with his followers giving away a $500 cash reward to whichever follower guessed the exact amount.
No need in trying to win the quick cash as the winner has already been announced, and although he didn’t get the amount down to the dollar, he was the closest.
Read more at TMZ Sports.
President-elect Donald Trump promised his voters a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and now his transition team and congressional republicans are trying to figure out if there is anyway to slide the wall building into existing legislation without passing a new bill.
Two congressional officials and a senior transition official with knowledge of the discussions confirmed to the Associated Press that this plan was in play, but added that no final decision had been made.
Current legislation allows for fencing or other technology along the southern border, AP reports. In sneaking Trump’s wall into an existing bill, Congress can bypass opposition and move towards securing funding for the surely expensive border measure.
AP notes that without Congressional approval Trump’s wall, which he assured voters would be paid for by Mexico, may look more like a fence or an unfulfilled promise.
Read more at the Associated Press.
The timing is impeccable.
Just as the highly anticipated movie Hidden Figures—the story of three African-American women who were crucial in the launch of the first American into orbit—hits theaters, more news of black female achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields has hit the presses.
NASA announced Wednesday that for the first time ever, an African American will call the International Space Station home.
According to a press release, NASA first-flight astronaut Jeanette Epps will be the first African-American space station crew member when she embarks on her first space flight in May 2018 as a flight engineer on Expedition 56. Epps will also remain on board the station for Expedition 57.
She will be joining veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel, who will first launch in March 2018 as a flight engineer on Expedition 55, before returning for Expedition 56 as commander.
“Each space station crew brings something different to the table, and Drew and Jeanette both have a lot to offer,” Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a press release. “The space station will benefit from having them on board.”
As the Idaho Statesman notes, NASA has had just 14 black astronauts, three of them women, travel to space in its history. Although many of those astronauts flew missions to the International Space Station, none of them stayed aboard.
Epps earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. She went on to complete a master’s of science in 1994, as well as a doctorate in 2000 in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.
While working on her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles about her research, according to the press release. After completing her graduate studies, Epps worked in a research lab for over two years, co-authoring multiple patents, before being recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. She was a CIA technical intelligence officer for about seven years before being selected as a member of the 2009 astronaut class.
And speaking of hidden figures, Epps has actually appeared in a NASA video connected to the film, offering advice to young women who are involved in STEM.
“Anything you don’t know is going to be hard at first,” Epps says in the video. “But if you stay the course, put the time and effort in, it will become seamless eventually.”
Officials at the Fort Hood military base have launched an investigation after a solider’s car was vandalized and defaced with a racial slur at the Killeen, Texas base, just two days before Christmas.
According to the Killeen Daily Herald, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Charlot was getting ready to leave Killeen for Houston, his hometown, for the Christmas holiday when he got a call about his vehicle, a 2009 Nissan Sentra. Charlot said that he originally thought it would be something simple such body part drawings all over, but what he discovered turned out to be so much worse.
Along with the slur, all four of Charlot’s tires were slashed, and the car was also broken into and gasoline was poured all over the inside.
“It makes me feel disgruntled, unwanted — that the America I love isn’t the same anymore,” Charlot told KDH.
“It’s disheartening, if you will,” he added. “It’s an older car and was having some issues, so it had been sitting there for a while.”
Fort Hood’s Criminal Investigation Division still has the vehicle while the incident is under investigation.
One of Charlot’s friends, John Martinez, started a GoFundMe Page to help the soldier, having raised $4,400 of a $10,000 goal over the past 10 days.
“My best friend is a soldier in the U.S. Army and has worked extremely hard to protect our freedom,” Martinez wrote on the campaign description “My best friend is one of the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet.”
“Although racism still exists in this country, I never thought I would realize this kind of hatred personally,” Martinez added. “I can’t imagine the emotions my best friend is experiencing, but my hope is to raise enough money for him to purchase a new vehicle since his insurance will not cover such an incident.”
Read more at the Killeen Daily Herald.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the already-celebrated film Hidden Figures is coming to a theater near you as it reaches its nationwide release Friday. Based on a book by the same name, Hidden Figures is a historical drama set in 1960s Hampton, Va., that chronicles the personal and professional lives of three African-American female mathematicians who defied the odds and overcame many societal obstacles to help NASA put an astronaut into orbit around the Earth.
Deemed an important film by critics and audiences because it brings the largely untold story of three dynamic black female scientists to the big screen, Hidden Figures is also well done from a stylistic and narrative perspective. By keeping the stories of the black female leads primary, the film sidesteps the Hollywood trope of privileging the white character’s story in order to satisfy white audiences. Although the white characters are important, they do not overshadow or diminish the importance of the stories of Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer).
Hidden Figures has also received a major advertising push from 20th Century Fox, which is unusual in Hollywood for a film with three black female leads. Historically black organizations have made viewing the film a social and civic occasion, with sororities, fraternities and the like sponsoring screenings in cities across the nation. Fox has also sponsored screenings for high school students in New York City and Los Angeles. It’s clear that there’s a movement to make Hidden Figures more than a film, but does it deliver?
In a nutshell, yes. Directed by Theodore Melfi, who also co-wrote the screenplay, Hidden Figures documents the pervasiveness of institutional racism and how the mistreatment of targeted groups becomes normalized. The irony of an organization like NASA, which is committed to pushing boundaries and literally exploring the universe, limiting the career trajectories of women in general and black women in this story is preposterous.
Melfi does a solid job of showing the absurdity of Jim Crow laws through the characters, including Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner), Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst). Harrison is the department head who is too busy to hate; his major goal is to beat Russia in the space race, and he isn’t going to let racism and sexism stand in the way of this goal. Stafford represents the old guard, undermining Johnson’s attempt at full participation by making it nearly impossible for her to do her job and then using her work and ideas for his own advancement. Mitchell is an agent of the state, citing rules and regulations as reasons for discriminating against Vaughan. Costner, who excels in his understated performance as the leader and moral compass of his group, literally tears down the “Colored Only” sign on the bathroom on the other side of the workplace after learning of the outlandish journey Johnson has to take to legally relieve herself.
While the film does a decent job of capturing parts of the Jim Crow era and the challenges the women faced because of it, Hidden Figures relies heavily on Hollywood tropes to lighten the blow of white supremacy for audiences. The black characters are central to the narrative but removed from other parts of the larger systems of oppression. NASA is presented as an island where everything works out as it should, in contrast with the rest of the city and state, which were holding on to segregation for dear life. Audiences see glimpses of the social stresses of being black women in 1960s Virginia, but very little of the social unrest that plagued the state during that time period.
Like the film The Help, Hidden Figures teeters on the edge of being so kitschy in its style and settings that it almost undermines the seriousness of what is actually taking place in the lives of these three dynamic women. Director Melfi manages to sidestep falling completely into the sanguine “Southern girls just want to have fun” character convention by showing that the women live full lives, including attending church, hosting gatherings at their homes and even enjoying courtship.
Katherine Johnson meets and falls in love with Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali), a dashing military officer who is as taken with her mind as he is with her beauty. Mary Jackson wins over her husband, who is initially skeptical about the value of earning another degree in a world where opportunities are limited for black people. Dorothy Vaughan encounters racism at the local library when she tries to expose her sons to books unavailable in the colored section. Melfi does just enough to remind viewers that Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson were fighting for more than just opportunity, equality and respect at NASA. They were also fighting for their rights and dignity out in the world.
Hidden Figures is a solid film that aims to please with an all-star cast, strong performances, an infectious soundtrack and a score co-produced by superstar musician and Virginia native Pharrell Williams (who also serves as a producer on the film). This is a movie that lives up to the hype of the advertising and marketing while serving an important function of educating the masses and empowering young black women with dynamic images of themselves. And did I mention the superb clothing and costumes? What’s not to like? The previously untold story of three dynamic black women transgressing sociopolitical boundaries to help NASA transgress scientific boundaries is an important one that will have audiences cheering for years to come.
“It’s more like the cherries on top, to be able to stand in my shoes and know where I came from, and know I had a wonderful partnership with my sister to build this business,” Branch says. “It feels good to be able to come to that place to tell that story. It’s fun!”
Branch, 46, works constantly to spread the story of Miss Jessie’s LLC, the company she co-founded with her late sister, Titi Branch. Miko Branch is in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the 2017 Forward Conference, where she will be a keynote speaker, giving millennials the tools to create their own successful businesses. Branch’s book, Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally, will be available in paperback Feb. 14.
“I’m very excited and feeling good,” Branch says. “When we decided to write the book in 2013, we wanted to share our business to inspire others. We built our business from scratch, and I imagine lots of others want to be on their own, but don’t have the access or expertise. … [The book] gives me a chance to touch more folks.”
The Branch sisters opened their first salon, Curve, in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1997. They mixed ingredients at their kitchen table, creating products that would enhance the look, feel and health of curly hair, as there were almost none on the market at that time. It was a technique learned from their beloved paternal grandmother, Jessie Mae Branch, described on the company’s website as a “tell it like it is” woman who was known to “tear up hind parts if she had to.” Money was tight, and Miko and Titi did what they had to to grow their business and brand.
“My sister and I pooled our resources, and those were not money resources, they were our God-given talents. My sister was a great communicator and great organizer and she was a great big sister. I was good at hair and understood the beauty business. The magic came when we got together,” Miko Branch recalls. “[But] we weren’t sophisticated when it came time to source loans. What we did do was sacrifice. We wore each other’s clothes, we were roommates, we took in another roommate and put a premium on value and innovation at … the salon. When we created the product there was nothing like Curly Pudding. We put a price on it and were able to slowly build our business.”
By 2004, the sisters had created Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding, named after their grandmother. Women with curly, coily and kinky hair flocked to Brooklyn to buy the product. Branch told the Atlanta Tribune that along with their grandmother, the legendary hair, beauty and business pioneer Madam C.J. Walker inspired the sisters and taught them that success was possible. They started selling their products at Sodafine, a now-defunct women-owned thrift shop in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.
“The reason that we were there is we could no longer service people coming to our brownstone because we lived there! People were ringing our bell to get this curl magic in a jar. I was a single mom and my son and I were sleeping on the fourth floor,” Branch says, laughing. “People were ringing our bell at ungodly hours and you couldn’t buy the product unless you were a client with an appointment. So, my sister and I strolled into a store on DeKalb [Avenue]. We were going to do a 60-40 cut …we were willing to take 40 because we were desperate … but these two girls said why don’t we just do it 50-50 … and we were able to be fair with each other.”
A year later, the sisters renamed their salon Miss Jessie’s, and it continues selling a line of products clients rave about, including Curly Meringue and Pillow Soft Curls. They later started selling their product at Ricky’s, a New York-based beauty emporium, and their curly-hair line is available now at nationwide chains such as Target.
Tragedy struck in 2014, when Titi Branch lost her battle against depression and took her own life in December. Miko still mourns the loss of her big sister, but wants people to know it is possible, if painful, to endure such a devastating tragedy.
“When something devastating like a death takes place, the first reaction is to break down and really embrace that loss. It’s very painful and it’s one of the hardest things I have experienced,” Branch says. “But because I kept my head, I was able to operate and still be a mom and keep my own sanity. It’s very important to stay calm and stay focused.”
Miko Branch has battled on, and says the next step for her is taking more time for herself and her family after having hit most of her business goals.
“My business has surpassed anything I could imagine. [But] with the loss of my sister, I’m putting a value on life and the quality of life,” Branch muses. “There is more for me to do personally, more happiness to touch on. I’m figuring out ways to extend my life and be a happy and healthy human being.”
Dear Professor Gates:
My ancestor Billy Postoak (aka Taylor and possibly Perryman) was born about 1820 in Alabama and was a slave of Taylor Postoak (Creek Indian). He married a Lizzie Smith and they had a son named Isaac Nivens (born about 1840-1842) in Alabama. A slave schedule shows Isaac was a slave of Cherokee Indian John Nivens. Also, Billy Postoak was Creek freedmen and yet his son Isaac ended up being on Cherokee freedmen rolls. Can you please help me explain how Isaac could have ended up on the Cherokee rolls instead of the Creek rolls, and more information about his life during and after slavery? I would also like to know more about his master John Nivens and approximately where and when Isaac was purchased. —Candice Crowley
Your family’s history provides a window on the complex history between African Americans and Native American nations (namely the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole) that were forcibly relocated from the American South and East to lands west of the Mississippi River during the 19th century.Intertwined Tragedies
Prior to their removal, those nations had acquired the label of the “Five Civilized Tribes,” in part because they had adopted plantation farming, Western education, Christianity and slaveholding, among other practices. With the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, nearly 50,000 Native Americans were relocated west along with the Africans they had enslaved. Many were forcibly marched to their new homes. The infamous and deadly Trail of Tears, a trek of over 1,000 miles, claimed 4,000-5,000 Cherokee lives.
Following the Civil War, the five nations, all of which had members who fought for the Confederacy, entered into Reconstruction Treaty agreements with the United States. One of the concessions of these treaties was that the nations had to emancipate those they had enslaved and grant the “freedmen” tribal rights. The Cherokee, Creek and Seminole granted their freedmen tribal rights without any restrictions, whereas the Chickasaw and Choctaw each gave freedmen the option of adoption into the nation or removal from the area to settle elsewhere. Due to the 1866 treaties, freedmen were granted membership into the nation under which they were previously enslaved.
The rolls to which you referred in your question, officially known as the “The Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory,” but commonly called the Dawes Rolls, recorded membership in the five nations between 1898 and 1906. The kind of information they contain include name, age, gender, blood degree (pdf), or certified share of tribal ancestry, census card number or page, enrollment number and the name of their nation.
Therefore, the Dawes Rolls your ancestors appear on have more to do with the enrollment of their former owners prior to the end of slavery than their lineage. This explains why a father and son would appear on rolls for two different nations. Isaac Nivens appears on the Cherokee rolls because he was owned by John Nivens who was a Cherokee. Since Isaac’s father, Billy Postoak ,was owned by a Creek, he would have been included in the Creek rolls.
Maintaining membership in Native American nations has not been without its challenges for the freedmen’s descendants. The status of many Cherokee freedmen’s descendants was cast into legal limbo after a 2007 revision to the Cherokee constitution made a requirement of “Indian blood” for citizenship. What ensued was an ongoing legal battle between the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee freedmen to address the membership of the freedmen in the tribe, one that has pitted charges of racism against claims of sovereignty.What the Rolls Reveal
You can use the Dawes Rolls to learn more information about your ancestors and their owners. According to Isaac Nivens’ enrollment card, his father was Billy Postoak, who was owned by “Postoak,” and his mother was Lizzie Smith, who was owned by John Smith. Both of Isaac’s parents were members of the Creek Nation according to the enrollment card even though Isaac was enrolling as a Cherokee. This is because he was previously the slave of John Nivens, who was a Cherokee by blood, so he was eligible to enroll as a Cherokee freedman upon his emancipation.
When examining the Dawes Rolls, never stop at just the final roll. The applications have much more detailed information about the applicants and their families, even if they were not accepted onto the Dawes Final Rolls.
There is a packet for Isaac Nivens with more information on him and his family. Isaac’s application questionnaire (available on Fold3.com, subscription required) is dated April 4, 1901, and he applied for the enrollment of himself and one of his children (Henry) as Cherokee freedmen. According to the responses to the other questions, at the time of the application, Isaac’s wife, Louisa, was deceased and he had five children. His application also states that his former owner was John Nivens who was a Cherokee citizen, that Isaac lived in the Choctaw Nation at the beginning of the Civil War, and that he was in the Cherokee Nation by the time of the treaty. It is possible that he was sold during the war, though he does not mention any previous owners in his application.
You may also be able to gather more information about Billy Postoak, his son Isaac Nivens, and their former owners by examining the Dawes packets and enrollment cards for other family members. For example, there is an application for John and Jack Perryman dated May 18, 1901, in which Robert Grayson, a member of the Creek Nation, claimed that Billy Perryman (the father of the applicants) was a Creek freedman whose father was Billy Postoak. Billy Postoak’s and Billy Perryman’s former owner was Taylor Postoak. According to the final decision of John and Jack Perryman’s application, their father was Billy Perryman, who was a citizen of the Creek Nation, and their mother was Mary Carson, who was a recognized citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Based on this, it seems likely that Billy Perryman was a brother to your Isaac Nivens. You had mentioned in your question that Billy Postoak was sometimes known as Perryman; perhaps the records you located with the name Billy Perryman are actually describing his son.About Taylor Postoak and His Kin
There is a good deal of information available about Taylor Postoak, who was a Creek leader with the title of “second chief.” A photograph of him is included in his article on Find a Grave, along with his gravestone. There is also a published version of The Corn Fable of the Creeks as told by Taylor Postoak in 1882, so you can read the tale in his own voice. Additionally, his son, Lincoln Postoak, provided an oral history of his father that gives a good description of others in the town. Though this account does not mention any of his former slaves, you’ll want to note some of the familiar names in his recollections, such as Perryman, that may provide some hints and clues on where to look for more information.
As you are searching records, try to see if you can locate something that connects the Postoak and Nivens families that could give you a better idea of the time frame in which your Isaac Nivens was sold to John Nivens. Keep in mind that you probably will not locate a deed of sale for any of the Postoak slaves to John Nivens since these were sovereign nations and their property exchanges may not have been recorded by any U.S. governmental entities. You always have the option, however, of reaching out directly to the individual nations involved.
Since you know that John Nivens was the owner of Isaac Nivens, you can begin to search for more information on him in the United States Slave Schedules (available on Ancestry.com, subscription required). In the 1860 Slave Schedule, a slave owner named John Nivens was residing in the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation. With his location, we were able to locate him living in that district in the 1886 Cherokee Census. According to this, John was born about 1819 and his wife was named Delilah. There were also others in his household, including a Josephine Nivens (born about 1854), Ella Nivens (born about 1876) and William Nivens (born about 1881). Based on William Nivens’ application for enrollment, he was the son of Josephine and the grandson of John Nivens.
The files for John Nivens’ family members in the Dawes Rolls and Allotment applications can reveal a bit more about John Nivens. The application for his daughter, Josephine Higgins, reveals that John Nivens was Cherokee by blood, but his wife, Delilah Nivens, was Creek by blood. According to depositions in her file, the family lived on the border between the Cherokee and Creek nations, and John Nivens had enrolled all of his children in both the Cherokee and Creek nations. This makes sense for what you know about your own ancestors that have ties to both nations. According to one of the depositions in the file by Joshua Ross, John Nivens and his family were “well to do” and John Nivens had a house on the Cherokee land, a part of which Josephine inherited upon her mother’s death.
Sometimes, examining histories written about the tribal nations may reveal specific information about the individuals in questions. According to a book by Emmet Starr titled, A History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore, John Nivens served in a company in cooperation with the Confederacy and was killed at the same time as his commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Fox Taylor, on Greenleaf Bayon, July 21, 1862. This would mean that he died before the end of slavery, which, in other circumstances, may help you find a probate with a slave ancestor listed; however, since John Nivens was Cherokee, you are less likely to find a probate record at that time period.
Your best option for discovering more about your ancestor’s family and time during slavery would be to examine as many of the Dawes applications for your ancestor’s extended family and the family of their former owners as you can. The accounts in these records may reveal more about the settlement of the families over time.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also chairman of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.
This answer was provided in consultation with Meaghan E.H. Siekman, a senior researcher from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today about researching African-American roots.
Freedom fighter Mumia Abu-Jamal is one step closer to receiving life-saving medical treatment after a federal judge decided on Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections should provide him with new medications to treat his hepatitis C infection, Philly.com reports.
U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani ordered that Abu-Jamal must be seen by a doctor within two weeks to determine if there is a medical reason he should not be treated. If no reason is given, the state must provide the treatment.
“The struggle is far from over: the DOC will no doubt appeal this ruling. But a victory,” said Robert J. Boyle, legal council for Abu-Jamal. Boyle expects the state to appeal the ruling.
Mumia's Reaction – Part 1 – Hepatitis C Receives KnockOut Punchhttps://t.co/g4nUG8auQl
— Mumia Abu-Jamal (@MumiaAbuJamal) January 4, 2017
Mumia's Reaction – Part 2 – Messagehttps://t.co/RS0gZlqhN5
— Mumia Abu-Jamal (@MumiaAbuJamal) January 4, 2017
The DOC long ago put a price on Abu-Jamal’s life, maintaining since Abu-Jamal’s 2015 diagnosis that the medication was too expensive to provide.
As Philly.com reports, “The state has about 7,000 inmates with hepatitis C, and treating them – at a cost of $84,000 to $90,000 per person – would cost $600 million.”
“We are reviewing the decision and cannot comment further at this time,” Susan McNaughton, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman.A protestor stands next to an image of Mumia Abu-Jamal outside the US Department of Justice on April 24, 2012 in Washington, DC, calling for the release from prison of the ex-Black Panther militant, who was convicted for the killing of a white police officer in 1981 and sentenced to death. In December 2011 prosecutors gave up their effort to execute Abu-Jamal, who supporters believe is innocent and was framed for the murder in the racially charged case. Supporters decided to hold their demonstration on April 24, 2012, Abu-Jamal’s 58th birthday. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
As previously by The Root, Abu-Jamal, is serving a life sentence in prison for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner and has continued to be denied lifesaving medical treatment for his hepatitis C. He has always maintained his innocence, and after 29 years on death row his original death sentence was commuted when it was determined that his constitutional right to a fair trial was denied.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani previously denied an injunction that would have allowed Abu-Jamal to receive treatment, while simultaneously finding that Pennsylvania’s hepatitis C protocol for prisoners fails to meet constitutional standards.
Abu-Jamal’s supporters held a rally in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on December 9, the 25th anniversary of the night Faulkner was fatally shot to demand that he receive treatment.
Supporters also gathered in front of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in September to fight back against what is being described as the legal lynching of Abu-Jamal.
“We’re out here to let people, official and unofficial, know we’re not going to let the government plan, plot and conspire to kill our brother Mumia,” said freedom fighter Ramona Africa, a MOVE member and survivor of the 1985 police bombing that killed 11 MOVE members and left hundreds of people homeless.A visibly ill Mumia Abu-Jamal is surrounded by Abdu Jon, Pam Africa and Johanna Fernandez.Courtesy of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
“The government hasn’t abandoned their plan to kill Mumia,” continued Africa. “They’re just doing it in a different way.”
While the federal judge’s decision is welcome, it is shameful that Mumia and too many other political prisoners are still incarcerated. Justice is his freedom and nothing less. A nation that locks people away, stripping them of their rights and their ability to make a livable wage, then ruthlessly denies life-saving medical treatment because of expense can never claim to be a moral authority on anything.
Free them all.
A United States district judge ruled Saturday that doctors may turn transgender patients and women who have had abortions on the basis of religious freedom.
Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in his order that laws that would otherwise forbid gender-based discrimination require doctors to “remove the categorical exclusion of transitions and abortions and conduct an individualized assessment of every request for those procedures.” As .Mic explains, doctors would be required to argue on an individual basis their refusal of a patient.
Judge O’Connor writes that this requirement “imposes a burden” on doctors’ ability to exercise their religion.
O’Connor cited the controversial 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows family-owned corporations to refuse insurance coverage for birth control under the Affordable Care Act if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
O’Connor further claimed that an individual doctor refusing to treat a trans patient or a woman who has had an abortion does not limit their access to healthcare and coverage, and he argued that the government does not seem specifically concerned with trans people’s access to healthcare anyway.
“The government’s own health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid, do not mandate coverage for transition surgeries; the military’s health insurance program, TRICARE, specifically excludes coverage for transition surgeries,” O’Connor wrote in his judgment.
As .Mic notes, O’Connor’s ruling only further limits options for trans people, and adds fuel to the fire of punishing women for their reproductive choices.
The ruling also paves the way for even more discrimination on the grounds of religious freedom.
Read more at .Mic.
Six days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, a coalition of civil rights groups led by National Action Network (NAN) will march to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, D.C., to remind President Trump and Congress that the fight for civil rights continues.
On Saturday Jan. 14, Rev. Al Sharpton’s NAN will lead groups including the NAACP, National Urban League, National Congress of Black Women (NCBW), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of La Raza, Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., and the Hip Hop Caucus in a march that will begin at 11 a.m. and travel along D.C.’s Independence Avenue SW to West Potomac Park. At noon there will be a rally at West Potomac Park, which is located directly across from the MLK Memorial.
The Martin Luther King Jr., march is an annual event convened by Rev. Sharpton, and this year it is more timely than ever. Elected officials confirmed to be in attendance include Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Participants will demand accountability from President-elect Trump and members of Congress who are charged with overseeing the Criminal Justice Reform Act, the Voting Rights Bill, Supreme Court nominations and other Trump political appointments.
Amplified on social media by the #WeShallNotBeMoved hashtag, the coalition plans to make their voices heard and send a clear message to those in power that the fight for equal rights and justice for all is far from over.
The President-elect’s promises during his campaign have caused concern among civil rights activists. He has promised to institute a nationwide stop-and-frisk law, further widen the income gap by rolling out more tax cuts for the wealthy, and gut the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
#WeShallNotBeMoved is an opportunity to recommit to the principles of Dr. King while taking a stand to ensure access to quality and affordable healthcare, protect religious freedom, and ensure women sustain the right to choose.
“The 2017 march will bring all people together to insist on change and accountability,” Rev. Sharpton said. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for civil rights didn’t end with his death; it’s a fight we take on each day. The political players may change, but our goals stay the same. Donald Trump and his administration need to hear our voice and our concerns.”
For more information or to register, visit the March 2017 website.
Far from expressing remorse, convicted murderer Dylann Roof is instead complaining that it is “not fair” that prosecutors present such thorough testimony about the impact of his massacre at a historically black Charleston, S.C., church on the family and loved ones of the victims, the Washington Post reports.
“If I don’t present any mitigation evidence, the victim-impact evidence will take over the whole sentencing trial and guarantee that I get the death penalty,” Roof wrote in a court filing that was unsealed Thursday.
Roof had declined to offer up any evidence or call on any witnesses in the penalty phase of his trial. The 22-year-old opted to deliver a brief opening statement, telling jurors that there was nothing wrong with him psychologically.
“The point is that I’m not going to lie to you, not by myself or through somebody else,” Roof said Wednesday, speaking before the courtroom.
It seems, now, however, Roof is not partial to the fact that prosecutors are detailing emotional stories from the loved ones of the nine parishioners slain in Roof’s attack at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
According to the Post, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel did not impose any limits on testimony, although he warned prosecutors about length beforehand.
“I’m concerned both about the number of witnesses and the length of their testimony and the length collectively of their testimony, and I want you to revisit your strategy here, because at some point I’m going to cut you off if it gets too long,” he said.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson argued that it is “important that the government and these individuals are allowed to tell stories of their loved ones.”
Roof has expressed no remorse over his actions, actually penning in a jailhouse journal after the shooting, “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
Prosecutors originally said that they could call up to 38 witnesses to the stand, although Richard said Thursday that the final number of witnesses will probably be less.
Although Roof did not present any evidence or witnesses on his behalf. Gergel told jurors that they could take into consideration his confession, his offer to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, and the possibility that he could change, as factors to rule in favor of a life sentence.
Read more at the Washington Post.
Four suspects in the case of the horrific torture of a mentally disabled man are now facing multiple charges, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Jordan Hill, 18, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 28, and Tanishia Covington, 24, are all expended to appear in bond court Friday.
The four suspects are all facing charges of hate crime, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Hill also faces charges of robbery, residential burglary and possession of a stolen motor vehicle, while Cooper and Brittany Covington are also charged with residential burglary.
The group is accused of holding the 18-year-old victim hostage and torturing him in an apartment on the city’s west side, Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said, according to the Tribune.
CPD Arrested and Charged all four offenders with Hate Crime, as well as other charges, from West Side kidnapping and attack. Presser@2:15 pic.twitter.com/EoYnluf573
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) January 5, 2017
The horrific incident was displayed across Facebook in several videos. In one video on a woman’s Facebook page, a man threatens the victim with a knife. Someone tells the victim, “Kiss the floor [b–ch]!” and “Nobody can help you anymore.” At another point, someone told the victim to “say ‘I love black people.’”
At around 5:30 p.m., officers were called to the scene about half a block away from where the victim was picked up, responding to a call about a battery in progress. At the scene, officers “discovered signs of a struggle and damage to property and were able to link this evidence to the disoriented male,” police noted in a statement.
After officers were made aware of the video circulating via social media, they were certain of the connection between the disoriented man and the battery, the Tribune notes.
The victim’s family said that they had not heard from him since Dec. 31. Police in Streamwood, Ill., who were leading the investigation into the disappearance, said that the victim’s parents started “receiving text messages from persons claiming to be holding him captive.”
Police believe that the four suspects held him for about 24 hours before releasing him.
“It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, calling the videos “just sickening.” “I’ve been a cop for 28 years and I’ve seen things that you shouldn’t see in a lifetime, but it still amazes me how you still see things that you just shouldn’t.”
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
In the wake of harsh criticism from alumni and across social media, Talladega College President Billy C. Hawkins was at one point “still weighing his options” with respect to accepting the invitation for the school’s marching band to take part in President-Elect Donald Trump’s inaugural parade.
It appears that the weight crashed on the racist side of the scale, and the 150-year-old black college, located in Alabama, will attend the inauguration.
“The lessons students can learn from this experience cannot be taught in a classroom,” Talladega College President Billy Hawkins said in a press release. “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”
When it was announced last week that the college had received an invitation and initially accepted it, the backlash was immediate. Shirley Ferrill, who graduated from Talladega in 1974, launched an online petition calling on the band to “withdraw from any inaugural events for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t want my alma mater to give the appearance of supporting him,” Ferrill said of Trump in an interview with the Associated Press. “Ignore, decline or whatever, but please don’t send our band out in our name to do that.” Still, some defended Hawkins’ choice to accept the invitation—initially, anyway.
In what felt like a very random exchange, actor LeVar Burton spoke with TMZ about the debacle, arguing that the school would be passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Though Burton is not a supporter of Habanero Hitler, when asked if there is a potential silver lining, Burton said, “They could represent.” And when pressed about how it was an “honor,” he agreed, though noting that he himself would not participate.
Burton was diplomatic in his response, but others sincerely share the sentiment that it would be an honor for the band to perform for the president-elect and it’s an opportunity that should not be squandered.
However, as someone who is an alum of an HBCU, performing for a demagogue’s inaugural festivities is akin to performing for the very strains of bigotry that required the need for historically black colleges and universities. When I think about my time at Howard University, I relish the blessings—debt aside—of not having to center whiteness; of being able to see the diversity within my own race; of having the opportunity to focus on the brilliance of my own people; of feeling safe in spaces with people who look like me.
As a Bison, I know of fellow Howard students launching a sit-in demanding the resignation of political consultant Lee Atwater, the now-deceased, once proud champion of the racist “Southern strategy.” (Our next president makes Atwater almost look like an extra in the video for Black Men United’s “U Will Know.”) There are several instances of this at Howard and other black schools. It is not our way to make nice with racists.
Compare Tangerine Mussolini’s campaign rally with an HBCU campus and it becomes quite clear why so many vehemently oppose any black school lending itself to the celebration of hatred. Talladega College, in agreeing to perform at the inauguration parade, follows an unfortunate new pattern among select HBCUs. Like many, I was disgusted by Dillard University’s decision to allow David Duke—former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan but active white supremacist—to step foot on its campus as part of a Louisiana Senate debate.
In defense of that choice, Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough argued: “If we’re trying to get out of it because one person is coming to campus, that’s a problem for me in terms of what I value. That’s one of the criticisms of higher ed: We don’t accept diverse opinions.”
He also claimed to have been advised by legal counsel not to bow out, but be very clear: Racism is not a diverse opinion. And whether or not one cares to admit it, when we lend our black bodies and spaces to those who see us as less than, we are active participants in our own debasement. I still hope that Talladega College decides to opt out of performing for the orange man who frolics with white nationalists and white supremacists. Should it do so, it’ll be in good company with the Washington, D.C.-area high school marching bands that have opted out.
Trump doesn’t deserve our support, and thankfully, at least some of us have not required convincing of that.
Former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden strikes me as one of those Southern racists who are so racist, they don’t truthfully believe that they’re racist. The kind of racists who will pat a black man on the head or call his closest black male friend “boy”—you know, a Paula Deen-style racist.
During media rounds for his documentary The Bowden Dynasty on Wednesday, Bowden was at ESPN’s Mike & Mike when he let all his Southern-fried bigotry slip out.
“During my last days at Florida State, 65 to 70 percent of my boys did not have a daddy at home,” Bowden said, Sporting News reports. Clearly, a look at the sideline of any of Bowden’s FSU teams in his later years shows that more than 70 percent of his team was made up of young black men.
“They’re raised by mommas. Thank God for them mommas, or grandmommas. Or big sister, or aunt. But where’s the man? A boy needs a male figure, and the girls do, too. Somebody to discipline them and make them be a man. I used to kid about this—they grew up wanting to be like their momma. They want to be a man like their momma; that’s why they wear earrings.”
Bowden, 87, claims, of course, that this was a joke, and that he didn’t mean anything by it.
“They never finish what you say,” Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I was kidding about that. And I made a statement, ‘Thank goodness for these sweet mothers.’ And I said I was just kidding, but they leave all that part out.”
Uh, yeah, got it; a joke.
But that wasn’t the only weird comment Bowden made while on the show. He also talked about how he slept in a potential recruit’s bed the night before the teen could sign his letter of intent.
“Slept in a boy’s bed the night before signing day while other coaches were out in the front yard waiting for 7 o’clock,” Bowden said. “Slept in his bed that night, got up and ate breakfast. His momma cooked me breakfast. I knew I had him.
“That was back when you could do that,” he added. “You can’t do that anymore.”
A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Pennsylvania man who is accusing two Elizabeth Borough police officers of using “excessive and unnecessary force,” KDKA reports.
According to the news station, the incident took place in April 2015, but is now resurfacing because of the lawsuit and the release of surveillance footage that shows the altercation between the officers and the man, identified as 21-year-old Joshua Brooks, who was in custody as a drug suspect.
Brooks was at the Elizabeth Borough Police Station in Elizabeth, Pa., on a charge of possession of suspected heroin, when one officer, identified as Garrett Kimmel, became physically abusive when Brooks refused to sit down, the lawsuit claims.
Brooks had one of his ankles shackled to a bench at the time, and an arm in a cast, when the attack occurred. Kimmel can be seen on surveillance footage choking and punching Brooks, using his forearms, hands and knees. Officer Dan Verno, who apparently heard the scuffle, then enters the room, pulling Brooks from Kimmel before proceeding to use a Taser on the 21-year-old.
Brooks’ lawyer, Todd Hollis, called the video images “repulsive.”
“It represents everything that’s bad in a police officer,” Hollis said. “Using such excessive force when that force is unnecessary is repulsive and it goes against everything that I think most good cops stand for.”
After the incident at the police station, officers filed more than 30 charges against Brooks, including assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. However, all charges, with the exception of Brooks’ drug-possession charge, were subsequently dropped by the commonwealth. Brooks ended up pleading guilty to the possession charge and was sentenced to probation.
“Why is it that they filed these charges against this young man when they knew that he hadn’t committed aggravated assault on them? Was it in hopes that this young man would simply plead to the charges and that would insulate the police from wrongdoing?” Hollis said.
Hollis said his client was upset and afraid of retaliation but decided to go through with the lawsuit.
“We want to bring the truth to light. We want the public to see what happens behind closed doors,” the attorney added.
Read more at KDKA.
Duke guard Grayson Allen is a thug.
He’s a full-fledged habitual thug who happens to be good at basketball. He’s also a temperamental whiny brat, but make no mistake about it, he’s a thug, and mainstream media has been reluctant to call him that, and the handling of his on-court violence has been a joke, by not only the NCAA, but also his Hall of Fame coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
On Dec. 21, Allen committed his third tripping violation against Elon’s Steven Santa Ana. That’s right, when things weren’t going Allen’s way, he stuck out his foot and kicked his opponent, causing him to fall.
Luckily, no one has been seriously injured thus far, but nothing—nothing—has stopped Allen from throwing full-on temper tantrums on the court. While I’m fully aware that on-court retaliation is part of the game, where Allen’s behavior turns into thuggery is the fact that he’s initiating the violence.
In a Feb. 8 matchup with Louisville, Allen stuck out both his legs after falling to the floor and tripped Cardinals forward Ray Spalding as he ran up-floor. He was issued a flagrant foul and that was it.
Later that same month, Allen tripped Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes as the Seminoles guard began to run up-court, resulting in a public reprimand from the ACC, but no suspension.
After Allen’s third violation, coach Krzyzewski swore that he would handle it. After a public outcry demanding that Allen be disciplined, Coach K came out and announced that Allen had been stripped of his team captaincy and placed on an indefinite suspension.
On Dec. 31, Duke played its first game without Allen and got crushed by Virginia Tech, 89-75.
Minutes before Duke’s Wednesday night game against Georgia Tech, it was announced that Allen would be in the starting lineup. His indefinite suspension lasted one game, just one.
In the words of the DeRay Mckesson, “Watch whiteness work.” This in a nutshell is white privilege at its finest. Allen has crossed the line several times and hasn’t received anything close to a real reprimand. This display of whiteness is a micro view of America, where white violence is chided and whitesplained.
I would bet dollars to donuts it won’t be the last time we’re going to hear that Allen has committed some act of aggression on the basketball court, and I don’t doubt that some media news outlet will be there to make it all go away.
A national historical park meant to honor Underground Railroad hero and iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman in her hometown in upstate New York is getting closer and closer to becoming an actual reality, the Associated Press reports.
According to the wire, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the Department of Interior has completed a land transfer agreement that will now permit the National Park Service to go forth and establish the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, N.Y.
The park is meant to include the site of Tubman’s old home, as well as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church where Tubman worshipped, and which is located about a mile away from her former residence. Tubman had been free from slavery for about a decade when she bought a parcel of land on the outskirts of Auburn in 1859.
However, the AP notes, the park still needs to be a approved by the secretary of the interior before everything becomes official.
Read more at Fox News.
A Massachusetts sheriff is offering inmates in his county jail 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, the Herald News reports.
“I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Wednesday during his swearing-in ceremony, marking the beginning of his fourth six-year term in office.
As the Herald News notes, Hodgson has long been a critic of illegal immigration and frequently attacked President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
Now, he’s taking it just one step further, offering the free inmate labor to the incoming Trump administration through a conceptual national program that he dubs Project NICE (National Inmates’ Community Endeavors), which, much like Trump’s wall plan is merely and idea and something set in stone.
It is still unclear which government agency would pay to transport and house how many ever hundreds or thousands of inmates from across the country. The sheriff siad the details would need to be worked out with the federal government, which, he says is already spending “millions” to fly undocumented immigrants across the country anyway, the Herald News reports.
Still, Hodgson is pretty adamant that his plan would actually have some benefits to the nation and the inmates themselves.
“Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful,” Hodgson said.
Regardless of Hodgson’s feelings about the proposed wall, it is still not clear whether it will actually be built, or how it would be paid for. Before, Trump had said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, but the Mexican foreign minister quickly shut that thought down.
“We won’t have legitimate immigration reform in this country until we build a wall,” Hodgson said, adding that inmate labor could cut the building costs. “Knowing what I know about President-elect Trump, I gotta imagine he’s looking for every resource he can that’s going to be the least expensive approach.”
Read more at the Herald News.
Editor’s note: Once a month, this column will tackle broader questions about what the country should do to increase educational opportunities for black youths.
Studying the successes of black women mathematicians opens a window into how we can produce more black STEM grads. It also exposes the bigotry that prevents us from doing so. The new movie Hidden Figures, based on the book of the same title by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells the story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). These black women represented dozens if not hundreds of black women “computers” whose largely unrecognized intellectual contributions after World War II gave rise to the U.S. space program.
The lesson? The U.S. will continue to cut off its nose to spite its face by not treating the advancement of black girls’ achievement like the space race.
When victory is in the balance of war, it’s easier to see why a country must reap the talents of all its citizens – including black women – to protect everyone from existential threats. World War II made clear to the military the advantages of recruiting across racial lines. Later, the country’s collective talents led to launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962, along with the science that went along.
Unfortunately, the participation of black women in the sciences has not rocketed.
In her book, Shetterly cites data showing how far black women have come, but also reminds us of our current struggles. “In 1940, just 2 percent of all black women earned college degrees, and 60 percent of those women became teachers, mostly in public elementary and high schools,” Shetterly writes.
But none of those 1940 college graduates became engineers.
Today, about 24 percent of black women over the age of 25 have earned at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 20 percent of black men in 2014. For the 2012-13 academic year, 65 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by black students were awarded to black women. However, just 2 percent of black women worked as scientists or engineers in 2010, according the National Science Foundation.
Formerly known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) appeal to black women mathematicians during the Jim Crow segregation era showed how desperate the country was to strengthen its military and win the space race. It also confirmed that black women do math as well as any other group. When given the opportunity, black women can launch a man into outer space or create war machines.
Today, we’re not desperate to find cures for diseases, new forms of mass transit, better renewable energy sources and protections for our eroding wetlands. And the country suffers for it.
We’re more interested in raising test scores and “gap closing” than in pushing black and brown minds to solve tangible problems. But we shouldn’t have to go to war to give black and brown youth opportunities to combat what really threatens the U.S.
Education is an issue of national security. And the greatest threat is internal. Although different than Jim Crow segregation, the impact of racism and sexism today on life outcomes is no less strong.
In lieu of starting a war to produce more black women mathematicians, let’s just ask them how it’s done.
“Black women bring unique experiences and insights into their academic work based on many aspects of their identity,” said Sharon Fries-Britt, a University of Maryland professor and researcher who studies high-achieving black students. “We must study them to understand their sources of motivation and their need for expression in science environments.”
In her examinations of high-achieving black women in physics, Fries-Britt found that as girls they’d had “significant precollege exposure to science.” The black women in Fries-Britt’s studies participated in science competitions, went to science museums and had family members who introduced them to STEM fields.
Clearly, giving kids exposure early and often is key to creating mathematicians and scientists.
Mathematician Monica Jackson, an associate professor of statistics at American University, agrees. “Give them access to resources that can hone their skills,’’ said Jackson. “Nothing outdoes good schools, challenging classes and quality teachers.”
Like the women of Hidden Figures, high-achieving black students in the sciences are well aware of the stereotypes that brand them incapable. And like their predecessors, many students are driven by these perceptions. Fries-Britt describes this as a “proving process,” an incessant need to do well and prove they are capable.
“She will undoubtedly face many people who believe she is not good enough and can’t do the work,” said Jackson. “However, if she has parents, friends, teachers and mentors that truly support her, she will not believe those naysayers.” Jackson emphasized the importance of a support group.
Black parents are rearing math and science whizzes in spite of negative societal expectations that allow most youth’s math talents to languish in misplaced professions. It’s the expectations of schools, employers and universities that fail us. This is why young black girls must find the joy in math. The world around them is hard enough.
“Help her to see the fun in math. Math is very challenging but there is a beautiful side to it that makes it all worthwhile,” said Jackson, exemplifying the spirit that brought Hidden Figures to the screen.
Black women mathematicians’ mindsets and persistence can’t be measured on a test, but their performances in the face of barriers – that we create – merit resources and opportunity. The greatest gift of Hidden Figures will certainly be awareness. It’s to be hoped that translates into opportunity.