If any group represented a contemporary version of Diana Ross and the Supremes, SWV (Sisters With Voices) was the girl group of the ’90s for R&B harmonies, ballads and up-tempo, hip-hop soul.
And when we saw those three New York City-born girls with their fresh doobies, baseball jerseys and hip-hop style, we saw our own reflection. But as quickly as these around-the-way girls rose to triple-platinum status in the early ’90s, by the late ’90s, they had disappeared.
On Wednesday, TV One begins its 10th season of Unsung with SWV, and the trio—Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson (now George) and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons—reveals everything from the in-fighting among themselves to how everything they worked for came undone and how they put it all back together again.
In the fall of 1992, their debut album, It’s About Time, exploded onto the scene and added another layer to a new R&B resurgence dominated by Jodeci and Mary J. Blige’s hip-hop soul. SWV’s hits, “Weak,” “Right Here“ and “I’m So Into You“ put them on the map as the girl group that could sing love songs and dance hits that were equally infectious.
Producer Brian Alexander Morgan, who helped shape the classic slow-jam styles of Anita Baker and Luther Vandross and was heavily influenced by house music and the funk-mob sound of hip-hop legend Erick Sermon, brought an edge to SWV’s slow-jam groove with his writing and irresistible beats.
Morgan explained to Complex why the single “I’m So Into You” was important in defining a sound for SWV.
“It was a definite shift from New Jack Swing to a non-swinging, straight-ahead 16th-beat thing,” said Morgan. “‘I’m So Into You’ is as straight as it gets—no swinging, except in the hi-hat, whatsoever. I was so pissed when they kept calling SWV ‘New Jill Swing’ when they came out. I went so far out of my way to give these new songs a different sound.”
Morgan, who originally was a performer himself when Club Nouveau’s Jay King found and signed him, had written the SWV love song “Weak” when he was a labelmate with singer Chanté Moore at Warner Brothers. Morgan had a crush on Moore and wrote the song about his feelings for her. He intended to give it to Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band, but later realized Coko’s voice would be a better fit.
One of the group’s first hits, “Right Here,” would become an even bigger hit when it was later remixed by Teddy Riley with the sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” making SWV one of the first groups that Michael Jackson would allow to sample his music for free.
Part of the group’s appeal was that it was composed of actually regular girls who had the confidence to know they were talented enough to make it in the industry. At age 17, Leanne “Lelee” Lyons started the group when she was already the mother of two children. Inspired by watching a 12-year-old Shanice sing on Star Search, Lelee came up with the idea for the group, and she and Coko, both Bronx girls, pulled in Tamara “Taj” Johnson from Brooklyn as the third member.
“Bills had to get paid,” Lelee tells The Root, as she remembers pursuing her passion with two kids in tow. “I started this group so I felt like I had to go in.”
They would go on to have nine top 20 hits and work with every hot producer and hip-hop star in the industry from Snoop to Puffy to Missy Elliott.
But working with hitmakers in the hip-hop industry took them away from their humble R&B beginnings. And in true Supremes fashion, the record label wanted Coko to be in the foreground. The group broke up in 1998, and the label eventually signed Coko to a solo contract and released Lelee and Taj from their contracts.
Lelee went back to working a 9-to-5 for many years. ”I left the industry and it felt good to me to work,” she says. Lelee, who remembers fans calling her job and hanging up just to hear her voice, says: “I’m used to working. Even before I became Lelee from SWV I worked two jobs after I got pregnant at 15 years old.”
But deep down she knew she wasn’t pursuing her calling, so, just as the women were settling into their new lives, a call came for them to get on a conference call and work out their differences. They reunited in 2005 and have since resumed touring together (they even appeared on a reality-TV show called SWV: Reunited).
What’s the best thing about the reunion? “Being in front of the fans again,” Lelee says. “Sometimes the business part of the business will make you want to kill somebody. But the fans, you can’t leave them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged on Tuesday to cover tuition costs at state colleges for hundreds of thousands of middle and low-income students.
Under Cuomo’s plan, college students who have been accepted to a state or city university in New York, including two-year community colleges, would be eligible if they or their family earns $125,000 or less per year, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Cuomo has tracked left on a series of issues during his second term including championing a higher minimum wage and pushing for paid family leave. He unveiled his proposal at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who called the idea “revolutionary.”
If Cuomo’s plan goes through, it will put New York at the forefront of such efforts. The Times reports that both Tennessee and Oregon have programs in place to cover the cost of attendance at community colleges.
Under the proposal, the state would complete students’ tuition payments by supplementing existing state and federal grant programs. According to the Times, some students could have their entire four-year education covered.
In his remarks, Cuomo argued that student debt was crippling the prospects of generations of young Americans.
“It’s like starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg,” Mr. Cuomo said. He added that many students in New York and elsewhere left college $30,000 or more in debt.
“This society should say, ‘We’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,’” Cuomo said. “And New York State — New York State is going to do something about it.”
A three-year rollout of the program will begin in the fall with a $100,000 income limit, rising to $125,000 by 2019. While Cuomo’s administration estimated that the program would help nearly a million New York families, according to Jim Malatras, director of state operations, the actual number of students receiving tuition-free education would probably be about 200,000 by the time the program is fully enacted in 2019.
Read more at the NY Times.
Bill and Hillary Clinton will be in attendance at Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, their aides confirmed on Tuesday.
Former presidents and their spouses are given prominent seats to witness the inauguration, but as the LA Times notes, never before has a former first lady lost the election, and Hillary Clinton’s attendance at the ceremony will be a symbol of the much-touted “peaceful” transfer of power in America after one of the most bitter and hotly contested elections in our recent memory.
While both Clintons congratulated Trump on his victory, a spokesman for former President Clinton told the Times that they have not spoken with him since.
When Mitt Romney lost in 2012, he did not attend President Obama’s second inauguration and instead chose to spend the day in La Jolla. The Times notes that previous election losers have attended the inaugurations of their opponents, including former vice president Al Gore, who attended George W. Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 despite the close election battle and Florida recount.
The Times reports that George W. Bush will also be on hand for Trump’s inauguration, as will former president Jimmy Carter, but George H. W. Bush will not be in attendance due to health reasons.
Read more at the LA Times.
An Arkansas woman died during a Facebook Live broadcast last Wednesday, police have confirmed.
Keiana Herndon, 25, was reportedly broadcasting from a friend’s home when “something seemed to happen,” Sgt. Christopher Lutman of the El Dorado Police Department told NBC News.
Lutman told NBC that Herndon “started squinting like someone who had a headache.” He said that after she started squinting, she stopped moving, her eyes rolled, and she eventually passed out.
Lutman said the only other person in the home with Herndon at the time was her one-year-old son.
A person viewing the video contacted the friend with whom Herndon was staying. The friend went home and called called the authorities upon finding Herndon unconscious.
The case is being considered an unattended death, and there is no suspicion of foul play. Lutman called the situation a “sad, tragic occurrence.”
The video has since been removed from Facebook.
NBC reports that some of Herndon’s family members have told local news outlets that she suffered from a medical condition. Her mother, Mary Morgan, told a local ABC affiliate that Herndon had “thyroid problems.”
“The thyroid messes with everything and it triggered her heart,” Morgan said. “It’s a tragedy, I know that much, and I know one thing; I would love to have my baby back with me.”
An autopsy was performed, but according to NBC, the medical examiner further testing would be done to determine the official cause of death. Her body was scheduled to be returned to her family on Tuesday.
Herndon was reportedly talking about going back to school and responding to messages from friends in the video when she passed out. Lutman said that while this is not the first case of someone dying on Facebook Live, it stands out because Herndon was not doing anything high-risk or “irresponsible.”
A GoFundMe campaign reportedly set up by a friend of the family has raised over $5,000 as of Tuesday evening.
Read more at NBC News.
A police officer in Rolesville, N.C., is on administrative leave after video posted to Twitter on Tuesday showed him picking up a female high school student and slamming her violently to the ground.
The eight-second video shows a group of students at Rolesville High School crowded together, and then the officer slams the girl to the ground. After throwing her to the ground, the officer picks her up and leads her off with her hands behind her back.
Police told WTVD/ABC11 that a fight occurred at the high school earlier that morning. A second video sent in to WTVD shows the fight that led up to the incident with the officer. Witnesses say the girl who was body-slammed by the cop was attempting to break up the fight, which involved her sister. Police have not commented on either video or confirmed exactly how the girl who was slammed was involved.
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles told WTVD that the officer, who has been assigned to Rolesville High School since it opened in 2013, has been placed on administrative leave. He also confirmed that all officers were given body cameras in August.
Eagles told WTVD that the Rolesville chief of police will discuss the incident after a regularly scheduled town meeting Tuesday night.
Lisa Luten, spokesperson for Wake County Schools, told WTVD that the district was aware of the situation.
“We are in the process of working with Rolesville Police Department to gather all of the details around this incident,” Luten said.
Wake County Public Schools used its official Twitter account to respond to the student who originally posted the eight-second video and said that it was working to investigate the matter.
The ACLU of North Carolina tweeted in response to the video, calling it a “disturbing use of force” and asking anyone with information about the incident to contact them.
Disturbing use of force at #rolesvillehigh that should never be used against kids in schools. Contact us if you have info about incident.
— ACLU-North Carolina (@ACLU_NC) January 3, 2017
You can view the original video below. Warning: Possibly offensive language and disturbing imagery of an officer slamming a young girl to the ground like a rag doll. The girl actually goes completely limp when she hits the ground.
— Ahunna (@ahunnaaa_) January 3, 2017
Read more at ABC11.
Umar Johnson, aka the Prince of Pan-Africanism, has said our name. In his last posting from a hotel room somewhere in the continental United States, a much more subdued and skullcap-less Johnson has apologized for his behavior and profanity-laced tirade to everyone but black media and, more specifically, The Root.
According to Johnson, black media hopped on the bandwagon of bashing him while we don’t report his efforts to save black kids from the racket that is special education or the work he does with black boys.
Let me be clear about this since I wrote the initial takedown piece about Johnson, and let me also explain my position in a five-point presentation and issue an apology of my own.
First, an apology: During Umar Johnson’s expletive-laced rant in which he questioned whether light-skinned blacks were in fact blacks by calling the light-skinned conscious compadre with whom he was beefing a “cracker” and a ‘dirty [n–ga],’ and a ‘little [n–ga],’ he was wearing a Philadelphia Phillies skullcap with a ball on the top, and not a Philadelphia Flyers skullcap with a ball on the top as I reported. So I’m sorry for this mistake.Point No. 1: Brother to Brother
You played yourself. You got caught up in the male bravado bulls–t that plagues all men when their pride has been bruised and they have to stand down because they have outgrown the dumb s–t . This was an opportunity for you to go high, but clearly your feelings were hurt, and you set up a camera and recorded yourself going full Beanie Sigel because your conscious credentials had been checked.
Prior to your skullcapped WWE-style moment, I was familiar with your work. Having had a brief stint working for Washington, D.C., Public Schools Special Education, I found your position that special education is a money grab for public schools interesting. I found your claim that young black men with behavioral problems are being misdiagnosed as learning disabled so that schools profit to be dead-on. I shared your words with friends who still work in the system.
But I also found your position on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) to be dismissive. I found your acronym of “Ain’t No Daddy at Home Disease” and your views on homosexuality to be archaic, and in truth, some old, black, homophobic uncle s–t. I found the part about you having secured the funding to open a school for black boys only to lose the money because of derogatory statements made by a conscious stripper to be hilarious for several reasons, the most poignant being that we are always so close, and always so far.
In that moment, in one interview on The Breakfast Club, you’d captured just about every black man not named Obama for me. You were affable, enlightening and flawed. You came across as personable. In short, I was on your team.Point No. 2: Black Media
For black media, President Barack Obama is the standard. Whether we openly admit it or not, we are rooting for his presidency and his family. The Root premiered around the same time Obama took office, and as he became a benchmark of excellence, we aspired to reach the same heights. I came to The Root from the Washington Post and began my tenure as the breaking-news editor under the wise and tough leadership of then Managing Editor Lyne Pitts. On my first day at The Root, she made something very clear to me: If Obama did something awesome, we were going to report that, and if Obama messed up, we were going to report that, too.
Sadly, your own choices have been undoing your work. It was difficult to report on the “good” you did when so much of your story was associated with a stripper whose claims now seem to hold much more weight. You built your legacy shrouded in controversy. You came for black women and gay black men. You were heavy in your criticism of black women who wore weaves. You were also a big proponent of marriage, the black family and the like. You’d announced that you were celibate, yet, the conscious stripper, later revealed to be Kym Ringgold (who also does lip-synch impersonations when not performing, see below), a mother of two, exposed that you were trying to do more chill than Netflix. Not to mention the countless unanswered questions surrounding fundraising. All claims you deny; but can’t you see how this made it hard to report on all “the good” you were doing?Point No. 3: The Video
Come on, son. You set up a camera in a hotel room and wore your hat on full-thug level. You spoke in the language of the street, and at one point, folded your arms across your chest like an ’80s rapper.
In D.C. terms, you asked for this wreck, and the saddest part of the whole 45-minute exposé is that this person, this thug alter ego, seems false. In Jay Z terms: I don’t believe you, you need more people. And that’s a good thing. Too many times, our young black men are conditioned to believe that violence, and toughness, are authentic. That being street somehow equates to being real; that while you can speak the king’s English, never forget that you can still throw hands.
The funny part is that Umar Johnson, the scholar, seems way more believable than Umar Johnson, the knucklehead, and that’s due to the work you’ve done to make it that way. In fact, that was evidenced in the thug video during the phone call, when you were supposed to be calming your boys down, only the phone, the same phone you were talking on, started ringing while you were talking. Meaning it was all an act, all a performance. That same language that makes you versatile and believable to students made you a fool on this tape, beloved.Point No. 4: The Hat
No grown man. No educator. No speaker needs to wear a knit hat with a ball on the top. In fact, no kid over 12 should wear a knit hat with a ball on the top.Point No. 5: Legacy
When you are doing work that you believe in, when you are doing the work that you believe God has put you here to do, then do that work and become less concerned with how your legacy is being perceived and crafted. Do the work because you choose to do the work and you were called to do the work.
There was no planned Umar Johnson rebuttal; it was a moment, and like most moments on the internet, it would have been long gone. But something brought you back here, and I’m not sure if it was vanity, or ego, or both, but either way, here we are.
So here is my mention to you Johnson, I believe in bridges. I believe in the stability of them; they support things and allow safe passages over otherwise treacherous terrain. So let’s build one. I’m here, and in the words of the streets: Get at me.
It’s mere days into the New Year, and already authorities are investigating two separate shootings of unarmed men by Chicago police officers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to the report, just about two hours after midnight Jan. 1, an officer shot a man after a car chase on the Far South Side. The suspect apparently crashed his vehicle into a police car and was then shot after some sort of physical altercation with officers in the street, according to police. That individual is currently hospitalized and is said to be in serious condition, according to the Tribune.
The next morning, Monday, on the Northwest Side, an off-duty officer fatally shot an unarmed man with whom, according to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the officer had had a prior confrontation. The Chicago Police Department declined to identify the officer behind the shooting, saying only that he was 57 years old and assigned to transit detail. Police say that the officer shot the unarmed man “several times,” and he was pronounced dead at a medical center at 9:51 a.m.
“I have a lot more questions than I have answers at this time,” Johnson said. “I came out because I wanted to make sure the investigation was done properly.”
Both shootings are currently under investigation.
According to the Tribune, family identified the victim of Monday’s fatal shooting as 39-year-old Jose Nieves, a construction worker who had a second job as a security guard for a nightclub.
“He didn’t like drama,” a cousin, Ada Chaparro, said, adding that Nieves was walking his dogs when he was shot. “This makes no sense at all.”
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that investigators were checking the area, including a high school across the street, for surveillance footage of the incident and possible witnesses. Guglielmi said that it is not yet clear what led to the confrontation between the two men.
“We know that these two had some type of history with each other. We’re trying to dig deeper into that,” Guglielmi said. “We know there was some type of encounter between them before, but it’s unclear if it was the type of encounter that required police assistance. That’s also something we’re looking into, but these two individuals at minimum were prior acquaintances and had some type of history, not necessarily a friendly history.”
The incident is being looked into by both the CPD and the Independent Police Review Authority.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
When Bloomberg Media convened an invitation-only forum of notables on “The Future of Climate Change” during the first weekday of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last summer, there was only one black person at the table.
When that person, economist Julianne Malveaux, finally asked what that event’s cross section of environmentalist elite were doing about the disproportionate impact of climate disaster on black people, the reaction was quizzically tense.
“But, well, what do you recommend we do?” was the response from one white woman, who seemed to pose it more as a challenge than a question.
And when the other black person in the room (a silent observer for the only two black media outlets present) suggested that they could start by purchasing ads in black newspapers—such as the big daily one in Philly—the room was dumbfounded for a few seconds.
The exchange captures the level of diversity in the mainstream environmental movement: that is, not much. Instead, it’s unrepentantly white. Green activism is a massive nonprofit industry with green-economy market potential, but it’s constantly shaped by white voices: a national “green conversation” unfairly bathed in the stereotype of long-haired, tree-hugging white college kids road-tripping from one protest to the next.
Blame falls mostly on the movement itself. While the recent stand by indigenous tribes at the Dakota Access Pipeline site in North Dakota might have briefly changed perceptions of the popular green movement’s complexion, it didn’t fix the broader problem of a space stubbornly dominated by white faces.
For Green 2.0 Executive Director Whitney Tome, that’s nothing but green-movement business as usual. “While working in oceans, fisheries and national parks for a decade, I noticed a pattern: I was often the only woman of color,” Tome pondered recently. “I often found it hard to offer any solutions because I, like many others, had to overcome implicit and often explicit barriers where people may think I am less qualified, less knowledgeable and less able to provide insight.”
Impending policy fistfights over climate change are already rattling Washington, D.C., as a climate-change-denying Trump administration takes over. There are signs that the Trump White House, with congressional Republicans, will gleefully roll back hard-fought progress on climate change and air and water issues. But the open battle over national environmental policy—certain to hog up many headlines over the next few years—will find black voters, advocates and politicians largely absent. Lead environmental advocacy organizations from the Environmental Defense Fund to billionaire Tom Steyer’s hyped NextGen Climate PAC are overwhelmingly white either in their staff makeup or in their leadership.
“Without people of color in positions with policymaking capacity, it means that the perspectives of people of color are less likely to be included in the deliberations or outcomes,” Tome noted.
Yet, when human-made or human-instigated disasters inevitably hit, black folks are on the front lines. Bad water in Flint, Mich. Lead poisoning in an East Chicago project. Historic flash flooding in Baton Rouge, La. Superstorms along the Northeast. City-flattening hurricanes in New Orleans.
But the lack of a black presence in the climate fight is one cruddy outcome of a broader environmental conversation dominated by white voices. And it’s not helped when mainstream environmental organizations welcome very little diversity within their ranks, much less black representation. In its “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations & Government Agencies” report, Green 2.0 found that diverse populations often hit a “green ceiling”; people of color barely account for 16 percent of environmental-organization staff (even though they are 36 percent of the U.S. population), and 5 percent of nonprofit boards. The situation worsens at upper-management levels, or what’s called the executive “C-suite.”
As we move closer to the final days of an actual adult presidency, the reality that we’re letting go of scandal-free years is starting to set in. President Barack Obama didn’t help matters when he announced Monday that he would be delivering his farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago on Jan. 10.
“I’m just beginning to write my remarks. But I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here … I hope you’ll join me one last time. Because for me, it’s always been about you,” Obama wrote.
This can’t be happening. There should have been an amendment or law or something that allows good, kind, smart presidents to stay in office longer. This is the time that I wish America were under a dictatorship and we had to live with the Obama family forever.
I envision the Obamas leaving office with the collective American people, who have at least one working brain cell, clinging to their legs. Hopefully, Sasha or Malia decide to run, and not when they are in their 30s; hell, they are smarter than the president-elect now.
I’m annoyed now. Thanks, ’Merica.
In a move that would make Frank Underwood blush, house Republicans held a secret meeting during a national holiday and then secretly approved to gut Congress’ independent ethics watchdog.
In a closed-door meeting Monday, Republican members voted 119-74 to put the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was created in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct, under the House Ethics Committee, those it was set up to investigate.
According to Politico, the move to crush ethics inquires was led by several members who’ve been investigated in recent years.
Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the proposal despite warnings from top GOP brass Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
There was no debate, no opportunity for the opposition to voice their concerns, just a closed-door meeting and secret vote.
Goodlatte said that the move will build “upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics,” The Daily Beast reports.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was shocked to learn of the secretive move.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” Pelosi said in a statement, Daily Beast reports.
“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”
The full House of Representatives will vote on the rule as part of a larger package to be considered Tuesday, Daily Beast reports.
It seemed like Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones had finally turned it around after a series of arrests since entering the NFL in 2005. He’d demanded that NFL announcers call him Adam and not his nickname “Pacman” when referring to him. For years he seemed to stay out of trouble.
Looks like Jones’ past caught up with him, early Tuesday morning, after he was arrested for assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business, Fox19.com reports.
— WHIOTV (@whiotv) January 3, 2017
Jones, 33, reportedly assaulted a man and exhibited “turbulent behavior,” outside The Banks entertainment district in Cincinnati, according to a police report viewed by the news station.
A reporter for Good Morning Cincinnati tweeted that Jones “allegedly pushed a security guard and poked him in the eye.” Jones also reportedly kicked and pulled away from a police officer as he tried to leave the scene.
Jones was also charged with harassment with a bodily substance after he reportedly spit on a jail medical staff nurse.
Jones, who was drafted by the Tennessee Titans, was suspended by the team for the entire 2007 season after multiple arrests, including being involved in a fight at a Las Vegas strip club that resulted in someone getting shot and paralyzed.
Jones, who is under contract with the Bengals until 2018, will appear in court Tuesday.
Read more at Fox19.com.
Chicago ended 2016 with a record number of shooting incidents and the most homicides in two decades, ABC News reports.
According to the report, Chicago closed out the year with 3,550 shootings and 762 murders, or on average, more than two murders and almost 10 shootings every single day.
The chilling data reveals that the Windy City has seen their highest level of homicides since 1996, when 796 were recorded. The total in 2016 is a 57 percent increase over 2015, which is the biggest spike in murders in the city in 60 years, the site notes.
The rise in violence prompted President-elect Donald Trump to respond via Twitter, suggesting that federal law enforcement should get involved in the crisis.
Chicago murder rate is record setting – 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016. If Mayor can't do it he must ask for Federal help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
Among the dead in Chicago in 2016 are Nykea Aldridge, the mother of four and the cousin of NBA star Dwayne Wade, who was tragically caught in crossfire in August while pushing her baby in a stroller on the South Side. The 15-year-old grandson of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) was shot and killed over a pair of gym shoes in November.
According to CBS News, in a Sunday news conference Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Chicago was among several cities in the U.S. that have seen a rise in violence, including attacks on law enforcement.
Johnson also said that it appears that criminals have little fear of the criminal justice system.
“In Chicago, we just don’t have a deterrent to pick up a gun,” he said. “Any time a guy stealing a loaf of bread spends more time pre-trial in jail than a gun offender, something is wrong.”
Johnson expressed that he thinks that more gang members are arming themselves because their is a relatively small price for being caught when compared to other large cities.
The police superintendent said that several other factors may have contributed to the increase in violence, noting that 2016 was the first full year since the city was forced to release the video showing the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teen who was shot 16 times by a white police officer.
According to CBS News, Johnson noted in a recent interview with the Associated Press that officers have now grown more cautious out of fear of becoming the next “viral video,” adding that these concerns are not lost on those who commit crimes.
“Criminals watch TV, pay attention to the media,” he said. “They see an opportunity to commit nefarious activity.”
Police in Albuquerque, N.M. says a mom accused of beating and sexually assaulting her son, and then took her six other children and fled from police has now been arrested, KRQE reports.
Genoveva Fazio was arrested on Sunday in Arizona and was taken to the Navajo County Jail in Holborok. Fazio had been on the run from police since Friday after the allegations caught the attention of the authorities. According to the arrest warrant, Fazio is accused of punishing her 14-year-old son by pulling on his genitals and punching, kicking and biting him.
The teen escaped and ran to a police station, however when officers went to the home, they found that Fazio and six of her other children, ranging in age from 5 months to 14-years old had disappeared.
The Albuquerque police said that the children have now been placed in ah home for Children, Youth and Families Department until their return can be coordinated.
Read more at KRQE.
A federal judge has once again deemed white supremacist Dylann Roof competent to face trial, the New York Times reports.
According to the report, on Monday, Judge Richard M. Gergel echoed the decision he made in a separate ruling back in late November when Gergel found that Roof did not meet the legal standard to be deemed incompetent.
“After fully considering all of the evidence presented, the court ruled from the bench that Defendant remains competent to stand trial and to self-represent,” the judge wrote in an order, the Times notes.
The sentencing phase of Roof’s trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, one day later than originally planned. Roof has expressed his insistence to represent himself in the trial, opening stating that he will deliver an opening statement, with no intention to call witnesses or present any evidence in his defense as jurors decide whether he is sentenced to death or to life in prison.
As the Times notes, last month it took jurors only about two hours to find Roof guilty on 33 counts for the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. that left nine dead.
Prosecutors used several witnesses, photographs and autopsy reports in the guilt phase of the trial, as well as Roof’s own words documented in a handwritten journal, an online manifesto and a video recording of his confession to the FBI.
According to the Times Justice Department officials are expected to share much of the same evidence as well as new witnesses when they argue for the death penalty, including nine aggravating factors cited in a court filing last year such as Roof’s “substantial planning and premeditation” and his “hatred and contempt toward African-Americans.”
Read more at the New York Times.
Shortcuts are great. When you’re on a road trip, yes. When you’re trying to transform your health, not so much. So if you plan to start 2017 on the healthier side of things, check out what quick fixes you should leave in 2016.1. Eliminate diets that eliminate entire food groups.
As tempting as it may be, beware of jumping on the “I don’t eat (fill in the blank)” bandwagon in 2017. Especially if your goal is long-term weight loss. For instance, eating like a caveman or cavewoman on the Paleo diet may be great for ditching refined sugar, dairy, grains and legumes in favor of meat, fish, poultry, fruits and veggies. But the downside is you can end up overdosing on meat. So keep your carnivore pickings lean, Flintstone fam.
Or, if you’re still riding the “low carb” train, may this be the year you keep your weight on track longer than March by inviting more “healthy carbs,” like whole grains and high-quality grains like quinoa, into your diet.
Speaking of quinoa, this grain is often a gluten-free eater’s top five fave. So while gluten-free seems like all we may see, unless you’re suffering from celiac disease, beware of what passing on gluten really means. Yes, you will automatically consume less processed foods and more high-quality grains; however, beware of sneaky labels. The food industry will consume you (pun intended) if you aren’t careful. For instance, a “gluten free” cookie is still a cookie, and like many gluten-free products, contains higher levels of both fat and sugar.
Overall, before you ditch an entire food group, be honest with yourself about why you’re kicking said food group to the curb. If it’s solely weight-loss-focused, you may lose the will to stick with your new restriction sooner rather than later.2. Don’t be so quick to try an intermittent fast.
And while we are on the topic of skipping food groups, let’s leave skipping meals in 2016, too. Back in the day, the Military Diet was the leader of the “eat less, lose more” campaign. Clocking in at 800-1,000 calories a day which, by the way, is less than even a child eats, was foolishness across the board.
So whether you’ve “about faced” on this one yet or not, watch out for other extremely-low-calorie diets such as the widely popular intermittent fasting. Skipping out on meals periodically will surely help you drop a size, but your metabolism and energy will definitely drop, too. And the last thing you need (especially as you get older) is a pissed-off and slow metabolism.3. Don’t waste your time with waist trainers.
A small waist is coveted by many, and celebs may have you fooled thinking that having a 25-inch waist is a cinch. But corsets went out of style centuries ago for a reason. Yes, many argue that waist trainers and corsets are not the same; however, among many things, the one thing they both have in common is the high risk and damage they cause.
If worn too long or too tight, waist trainers put you at risk for crushing your organs or compressing your lungs; you could fracture your ribs and possibly even increase your chance of developing acid-reflux disease. Oh, and you could pass out.
So pass on this waist-training method and actually “train” your core a bit more this year with planks, exercises that challenge your balance, and movements that are multidirectional—like squats followed by a rotational twist using a medicine ball or weight.4. Say bye to magic pills and pyramid schemes.
“Get skinny and make your pockets fat!” is the No. 1 weight-loss scheme today. Popular weight-loss companies such as Herbalife, ViSalus and Shakeology (just to name a few) are in the business of making your weight loss a business, and frankly, the overall cost just isn’t worth it. Not only do these quick fixes that push two shakes a day or popping magic pills provide temporary results, but seriously, how long do you think you can maintain such a restricted diet?
Straight up, many of the ingredients are shady—think crazy amounts of soy and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (more like OMG)—and the damaging effects these products have won’t just affect you physically but psychologically as well.
The risk is truly astounding. Just search “I used to be on (insert diet pyramid scheme)” one day and see for yourself. Bottom line—you can try the 90-day guarantee line or do the “lifestyle change” work to live up to 90 years, possibly.5. Try not to HIIT the gym too hard.
Diets aside, another common mistake weight-loss goal diggers make on Jan. 1, is hitting the gym too hard. Which is easier than ever nowadays since “high-intensity, interval training,” or HIIT, is the most popular fitness trend on the scene. Think short workouts (20 minutes or less sometimes) that instantly make you short of breath. Great for the metabolism and for those who are short on time, but a disaster waiting to happen for newbies, overachievers or a combo of the two.
The exercises in many popular HIIT programs and classes are often advanced, and if done incorrectly, can leave you injured and benched before you even get in the game. So whether you hit up this popular workout trend or just make your way back to the gym this January after a hiatus, the goal is to ease into things and increase the intensity gradually. The fit life is a marathon, not a sprint, so take it one step at a time.6. Rid yourself of cleanses and detoxes.
Wait, people are still doing the Cabbage Soup Diet and the Master Cleanse?! Yes, they are. Well, if downing bowls of soup or subscribing to the first “lemonade” Beyoncé helped make popular sounds good to you, think again. Because unless you want to start the year tired, cranky and starving, with a slow metabolism, low-energy levels and risking your health, it’s not worth it. Oh, and these new-school versions aren’t exempt either.
If you are tempted to try a juice cleanse or order that tea from your favorite insta-star, remember this: Your body actually already runs on an auto-cleanse system thanks to your kidneys, liver and intestines; therefore, those three bottles a day and that detox tea are not really doing any cleaning.
Sorry to to tell you this, but if you feel lighter, healthier or “cleansed” after taking a food hiatus with one of these programs, it’s because (spoiler alert) you eliminated junk food, not toxins.
So what is the ultimate solution to your weight-loss resolution? To kick it old school and sign up for this foolproof formula: eating less x moving more = healthier you. Free-ninety-nine.
In yet another move meant to cement his legacy as an environmental advocate, President Obama recently designated 1.35 million acres of land in Utah for a new national monument, one meant to protect native lands and precious environmental resources.
The Bears Ears National Monument is 1.35 million acres of public land, “redrock country rich with archaeological sites, centuries-old cultural ties and a uniqueness that had inspired Americans’ love of Western vistas,” down from some 1.9 million acres that tribal leaders advocated, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
— Wilderness Society (@Wilderness) December 30, 2016
In his statement on Wednesday, the president noted:
Today, I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. . . . Following years of public input and various proposals to protect both of these areas, including legislation and a proposal from tribal governments in and around Utah, these monuments will protect places that a wide range of stakeholders all agree are worthy of protection.
Yet, the Hill reports that all of Utah’s statewide leaders and congressional delegation oppose the Bears Ears monument, saying it unnecessarily restricts land uses like fossil fuel production. Attorney General Sean Reyes has threatened to sue President Obama over Bears Ears.
“My office is working closely with the governor’s office, federal and state legislators, and San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging this egregious overreach by the Obama administration,” Reyes said in a statement late Wednesday after Obama’s announcement.
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) is also opposed and the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are set to issue subpoenas about the designation. Legislation to overturn the new monument is expected at the start of Congress’ new session in January. The Tribune notes that Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican whose biggest campaign contributors are from the oil and gas industry, worked closely with Chaffetz to leave part of the land open to development.
Opponents of the designation say that President-elect Donald Trump has the power under the Antiquities Act to undo Obama’s actions. Incidentally it is the Antiquties Act, a 1906 law that gives a president unilateral power to preserve public lands as monuments. that gave Obama the authority to create Bears Ears.
“If you abuse the Antiquities Act, Congress is going to take that power away from future presidents,” gripes Republican Congressman Chris Stewart last month.
As for the citizens themselves, in a poll taken before Obama’s announcement, found that 46 percent of Utahns do not want Trump to undo the designation, and 40 percent want him to.
The Tribune reports that Obama has long had his eye on preserving public lands. “I’ve preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations. And I am not finished,” Obama said in August 2014. The outgoing president’s grand total now covers 553 million acres of protected land and water with 29 new or expanded monuments.
A creative prankster changed the iconic ”Hollywood” sign over Los Angeles by manipulating it to read “Hollyweed,” reports CNN.
The vandal used tarps to change the O’s in the sign to E’s. He (police think the perpetrator is probably a man) was caught on security-camera footage between midnight and 2 a.m. local time Sunday morning, but police reportedly can’t tell his race or height because it was rainy.
There’s a road accessible to the public by foot and car behind the sign, and sensors on the sign are implanted only in certain areas of the letters, so it’s possible to avoid them.
Vandals have altered the sign several times over the years, as one Twitter noted.
This is not the first time the Hollywood Sign became the Hollyweed Sign. — Happened in Dec. 1983 (Her-Ex) pic.twitter.com/dVxXyHt1bo
— Shelby Grad (@shelbygrad) January 1, 2017
The sign is definitely apropos, though.
In November, Californians legalized marijuana for recreational use for those 21 and over, becoming the most populous U.S. state to legalize the sticky icky.
President Barack Obama and his family return to White House from their annual Hawaiian vacation today, but the president still managed to hit his Twitter account on the first day of the New Year.
As with the rest of us, the president may realize that he is really looking at his last days in office. For the last 17 days, the POTUS will reportedly be working on ways to protect his healthcare reform legacy as well as announce last minute pardons and clemencies.
And speaking of legacy, the president let folks know in a series of Tweets what a Barack Obama presidency has done for the nation.
President Obama began by humbly thanking the people for the progress that they “made possible over these past 8 years” (always a nice touch, especially when SOME people always put the spotlight on themselves.)
As we look ahead to the future, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the remarkable progress that you made possible these past 8 years.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
He also thanked the people for miraculous job growth (thanks, O).
Facing the worst financial crisis in 80 years, you delivered the longest streak of job growth in our history. pic.twitter.com/Vk3PfRgZqF
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
And then noted that now nearly every American has healthcare.
After decades of rising health care costs, today nearly every American now has access to the financial security of affordable health care. pic.twitter.com/5e4nEcCxIM
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
Hit his commitment to clean air and renewable energy …
We traded foreign oil for clean energy, we doubled fuel efficiency standards, & we acted on a global scale to save the one planet we’ve got. pic.twitter.com/7alrOtHNIr
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
Shouted out the fact that most of our troops are now home and not embroiled in a costly war …
We brought home more of our troops & strengthened U.S. leadership—leading with diplomacy & partnering with nations to meet global problems.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
And then crowed about the fact that marriage equality is now the law of the land …
From realizing marriage equality to removing barriers to opportunity, we’ve made history in our work to reaffirm that all are created equal.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
Our favorite POTUS then bowed out graciously by thanking the people for the privilege of serving as president.
It’s been the privilege of my life to serve as your President. I look forward to standing with you as a citizen. Happy New Year everybody.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 1, 2017
The president will give his final address to the nation in Chicago on January 10.
As remote as 2015 now feels, it hard to forget the groundswell caused by the hashtag that became the David to the film Hollywood’s Goliath as the award season rolls around again.
After last year’s Academy Award nominations in February essentially shut out people of color in several categories two years in a row, social media erupted within minutes with tweets and posts featuring the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Try as the Academy and its members may to quell the criticism, it became a mainstay throughout the award season. The industry’s long-standing lack of diversity with casting, producing and for the academy—membership and voting practices—was brought to light, with 13 characters no less.
To add some context, let’s look at the numbers. Hollywood distributed over 300 films in limited and wide release in 2015. Of those films only nine (non-foreign language) featured people of color in leading roles. There were 14 films featuring people of color in an ensemble cast.
Standout performances by Will Smith in Concussion, David Oyelowo in Captive and amazing performances by Abraham Attah and Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation were simply overlooked by the Academy. And let’s not forget Creed, Ryan Coogler’s sophomore project. The film Coogler wrote and directed was also omitted save its only white cast member Sylvester Stallone, who received a nomination for actor in a supporting role. It was a snubbing most foul.
In my opinion, the only proof of Hollywood drifting from de rigueur was casting Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in the reboot of Fantastic Four. And in all fairness, I’m ok with forgetting that film.
But what a difference a year makes. 2016 has been a banner year for blacks in film, both in front of and behind the lens. From urban comedy, action, animation and drama, actors of color have made an impact this year in both the volume of films released and their performances.
Out of the 184 films released this year, 15 of those films (non-foreign language) feature people of color in leading roles with an additional nine films featuring people in an ensemble cast.
This year has already yielded film festival darlings and critical gems. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation won the Audience and Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, has critics and audiences swooning across the country with buzz for supporting award nods for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris and directing and adapted screenplay noms for Jenkins.
December has three films generating award speculation. Hidden Figures, the story of the female African-American mathematicians who helped get the United States to the moon, stars Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner; Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson and singer Janelle Monae and features original music by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams. Collateral Beauty is Will Smith’s annual Christmas offering. Smith plays a grief-stricken executive who writes letters to concepts like Love and Death and gets responses. Lastly we have Fences, an adaptation of August Wilson’s stage play, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprising their onstage roles in this feature directed by Washington. If buzz around this film comes to fruition, look for best actors nods for Washington and Davis, best supporting for Mykelti Williamson and directing for Washington as well.
Now I’m not implying a hashtag made Hollywood get off its collective ass (and wallet) for this increase to occur, I’m not saying that at all. After all, these films were in the making long before the shaming that occurred earlier this year. But if a hashtag like #OscarsSoWhite can push the conversation forward, hopefully ushering in the increase of opportunities resulting in the caliber of films and performances we’ve seen in 2016, then a little #BlackMoviesMatter is alright in my book.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.
Edward Adams is a writer and film critic based in Atlanta. He is a member of the African-American Film Critics Association.