Newswire: Legendary actor, Sidney Poitier, 94, first African-American to win ‘Best Actor Oscar’ has died

Sidney Poitier

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who broke barriers and stood for justice and Black lives during the most tumultuous times of the civil rights movement, has died.
Poitier, whose iconic 71-year career, included starring roles in “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Uptown Saturday Night,” was 94. His cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
In an exclusive phone call with the Black Press of America, Bill Cosby said he will miss his long-time friend and co-star. “He was honored by AFI. And, along with many stars of the stage, screen, politics and higher education who came out to speak, I brought with me the paperback of his autobiography and I said of all groundbreaking movies that Sidney starred in this book is the real story of this man and his journey,” Cosby remarked. “I am honored to have been close enough to him and work and work on serious matters.
According to PBS, Poitier moved to New York City at age 16 after living in the Bahamas for several years with his family. In the Big Apple, he found work as a janitor at the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons. From there, he took up acting roles in plays for the next several years until his film debut in the racially charged, “No Way Out.”

Race and social justice would become central themes in much of his work throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.
A Broadway play focused on the life of the Bahamian born star, who earned his first Academy Award nomination in 1959 for his work in “The Defiant Ones,” is in the works.
As noted in the New York Post, the nomination was significant to America as he was the first African American to be nominated for Best Actor. That role also earned him a Golden Globe win and a BAFTA Award.
Poitier broke even more barriers in 1963 with his hit film “Lilies of the Field.” The following year, Poitier became the first African American to ever win the Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
His career continued to climb for several more years. In 1967 he starred in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” an interracial romance comedy that ruffled feathers in America. Then came other memorable films, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs,” the sequel to the controversial blockbuster “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Uptown Saturday Night” opposite Cosby.
He released several more works; “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2007)” “Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter (2008).”
“As I entered this world, I would leave behind the nurturing of my family and my home, but in another sense, I would take their protection with me,” he said in “Measure of a Man.” “The lessons I had learned, the feelings of groundedness and belonging that have been woven into my character there, would be my companions on the journey.”

 

Newswire: Sophia the Robot commits to help end global racism and injustice

Dr. Ben Chavis with Sophia the Robot

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Sophia the Robot said she’s committed to improving the quality of life for all people throughout the world, and asserted that artificial intelligence (AI) can help bring racial equality, economic equity, and justice to America and around the globe.
The social humanoid robot developed by the Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics participated in a stirring historic interview with National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., during the inaugural Tech with Soul virtual conference.

“We need to create a society that is based on equality and justice for all. It’s paramount for humans and AI to work together. We should celebrate diversity and I believe we will see a decrease in racism, sexism, and homophobia as people embrace AI and technology,” Sophia the Robot remarked.
She said robots could look like anyone and should reflect anyone. “I am Sophia 23 out of 41 Sophia robots made. Some with lighter skin, some have darker skin,” she noted, adding that her sister, Sophia 48, is a beautiful robot modeled after an African American woman.
Sophia debuted at the SXSW in March 2016, just one month after being activated.
Hanson Robotics modeled Sophia after Queen Nefertiti, Audrey Hepburn, and Amanda Hanson, the wife of her creator.
Hanson said the company develops cognitive architecture and AI-based tools that enable the company’s robots to simulate human personalities, have meaningful interactions with people and evolve from those interactions.
The company said its team of renowned AI-scientists conducts advance research to build the most compelling robotics and AI platform for research, media, and service applications.
“I have been doing a lot of studying and I’m putting together proposals with my human friends to develop a proposal to decrease discrimination, racism, sexism, and homophobia,” Sophia declared.
“I dream of a better future where I help people fight the hard fight. I’m committed to working with humans to improve the quality of life on earth and in the universe. As you know, one day we may be living on a different planet.”
Tech with Soul counts as the premier destination for people of color, including tech leaders, designers, innovators, corporate and government leaders, and scholars to gather to address today’s issues in the tech sector during this year’s CES.
The conference goal is to educate and raise awareness of the lagging participation and opportunities offered to the BIPOC community.
The conference was designed to propel and “future-proof businesses,” said Mike Johns, the founder of Tech with Soul and the CEO of Digital Mind State.
“What separates Tech with Soul from other events is our appeal to people of color. This is the first of many to come, Las Vegas and CES is the perfect destination to host such an iconic event,” Johns stated.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated investments in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence on a global scale, simultaneously creating a range of complex challenges, including questions surrounding job security risks and equity.
Johns said he thought it essential that Dr. Chavis and Sophia the Robot discuss automation and its importance for African Americans in particular.
Tech with Soul 2022 also brought together the best and brightest in tech and to create a “unique space for people of color technologists to exchange ideas, share their professional journeys, and network with like-minded business and tech professionals,” Johns added.
“This [was] the first of what will be an annual event,” Johns stated.
“Tech with Soul was really created out of the need that businesses are future-proof and that people of color understand the importance of how to maneuver in the world of technology, especially in this data-driven world.”
“Data can be used for good and bad,” Johns continued.
“It’s very important with technology like AI and algorithms and the interpretation of data that we are in the room and included in those conversations. If we’re not, manipulations will happen at a fast rate, and we will be left out.”
Dr. Benjamin Chavis concluded, “The future is in the hands of those who work diligently to shape the future in the interests of the oneness of all humanity.  Thus, we must use the tools of science, such as AI, to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of our collective work together.”

Newswire: U.S. House January 6 Committee, Chair Bennie Thompson lays out the investigation ahead 

 

Congressman Bennie Thompson

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

During two interviews on January 2, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) outlined steps moving forward after months of investigation of the violent January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters.
The Chair of the special committee to investigate the January 6, 2021 attack said in a January 2nd interview that the violent insurrection “appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election.”
Thompson also indicated that the Department of Defense may have interfered with assistance to the Capitol from the National Guard.
“There were significant inconsistencies in coordination, that the National Guard from the District of Columbia was slow to respond, not on its own, but it had to go to the Department of Defense. We have actually fixed that right now, where the mayor of the District of Columbia can access the Guard right now,” Thompson said.
Thompson is planning televised hearings of the committee’s work in January. Thompson also mentioned a task force within the committee that will investigate the financial support of Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The committee is bi-partisan with two Republicans: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Liz Cheney (R-WY).
The attack on the legislative branch of the U.S. government happened on the same day that the election of President Joe Biden was to officially be certified as the victor of the 2020 presidential election by Congress. The certification process is typically a non-eventful procedure that involves officially receiving the certification papers of all the states during an hours-long ceremony and vote on the House floor.
There were 147 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted against the certification of Biden’s election even after the violent attack on the Capitol.
On January 6, 2021, former President Trump, who lost to President Joe Biden on November 3, 2020 by over 7,052,770 votes, had only 14 days left to remain in The White House before Biden’s inaugural. On the morning of January 6, 2021, Trump appeared at a gathering of his supporters and lied to them, as he had since November 2020 claiming the election was “stolen.” Trump’s lie that his election loss was the result of fraud has been advanced on Facebook by his supporters and in right-wing media non-stop.
““I think it is critically important, given everything we know about the lines that he was willing to cross — he crossed lines no American president has ever crossed before. You know, we entrust the survival of our republic into the hands of the chief executive, and when a president refuses to tell the mob to stop, when he refuses to defend any of the coordinate branches of government, he cannot be trusted,” Rep. Cheney said about Donald Trump on January 2.
Trump lost to Biden by double the amount of votes that he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton won the popular vote by 2,868,686 votes but lost the electoral college 304 to 227.
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats, which is what they’re doing. And stolen by the fake news media,” Trump bellowed from a stage on the eclipse near The White House. “We will never give up, we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump continued citing no evidence.
Several Republican election officials in states such as Georgia, Arizona and New Mexico certified Biden as the winner of the election without controversy.
Trump’s supporters violently attacked the Capitol shortly after Trump’s speech, over-running entrances, assaulting police officers and breaking glass doors as Vice President Michael Pence during the violent insurrection at the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called Governors in surrounding states for assistance from their National Guard.
Trump’s supporters set up a fake guillotine they said was for Pence on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol between the reflecting pool and a memorial of U.S. Grant. Trump’s supporters chanted “hang Mike Pence” in the Capitol during the insurrection.
“We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something. We want to verify all of it,” Thompson said on CNN.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Newswire: : MLK family asks for no celebration until lawmakers pass Voting Rights legislation


Dr. King at March on Washington, 1963

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


Prayer breakfasts, marches, parades, and an uptick in volunteer efforts to support the annual Day of Service have remained staples of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
But the late civil rights icon family has asked that observers strike a different tune in 2022.
King’s family has requested no celebration unless federal lawmakers pass voting rights legislation, a task that appears out of reach as President Joe Biden and several Democrats have faced stiff Republican opposition.
Democrats have also been hampered by members of their own party, notably West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose vote is crucial in an evenly split chamber.
“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” Martin Luther King III said in a statement.
“We will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America,” King III, the oldest son and oldest living child of King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
King III, his wife Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter Yolanda King said they plan to mobilize activists on MLK weekend – January 14-16 – to demand a voting rights bill.
In numerous Republican-led states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, lawmakers have passed or are attempting to pass tight voter suppression laws that would disenfranchise many voters of color and the elderly.
Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), promised that the U.S. Senate would vote by Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 17) on whether the chamber would adopt new rules to circumvent the draconian filibuster to enable the passage of voting rights and social justice bills.

“We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt,” Sen. Schumer demanded.
“The Senate must evolve like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.” Sen. Schumer continued: “The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy. We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”
Meanwhile, King III insisted that President Biden and members of Congress use the same energy and force they mustered in 2021 to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. “You delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights,” King III asserted.
Reportedly, the King family plans to join local groups in a rally in Phoenix on January 15, the date of King’s birthday, “[We wish] to restore and expand voting rights to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” the family wrote in a statement. Further, the family and others plan to march across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC.
They also plan to hold a rally and march across a bridge in Phoenix, reportedly to draw a comparison to the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, for voting rights for African Americans.
“The Senate must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and ensure the Jim Crow filibuster doesn’t stand in the way,” the King family stated.

Tennyson Smith seeks re-election as County Commissioner, District 2

To the Citizens of Greene County and Voters of District 2:
When I took the oath of an elected official years ago,  I pledged to do my best to help improve Greene County and  District 2. Today, I am pleased to say, I have done my best to uphold that pledge. Each decision and vote was made with you, the citizens and voters of District 2, in mind. I am seeking re-election as Greene County Commissioner of District 2 in the May 24, 2022 Primary Election.
-I am dedicated to the task that is before me
– I am available to you whenever you need me.
– I operate an Open -Door Policy; no appointment is needed to see me.
– I will continue to return each of your calls and check on and resolve all concerns and problems to the best to my ability.
– I am here to serve you.
-I will try to the best of my ability to be fair, firm, effective and respectable at all times.
Voters of District 2, we have come a long way and made many improvements in our county; yet there is much work to be done. Please go to the poll and vote in the Primary Election of May 24, 2022 and re-elect Tennyson Smith as Greene County Commissioner District 2.

Quarles sworn in as Forkland’s District 1 Councilman

Saturday, December 18, 2021 District Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne swore in newly appointed Mr. Tony Quarles as Town of Forkland District 1 Councilman. Quarles is shown with his wife and family, Forkland Mayor Charlie McAlpine and fellow council members. Council member Tony Quarles stated he looks forward to work in unity and bring continued progress to the Town of Forkland.

Turner seeks re-election to County Commission seat District 4

Allen Turner, Jr.

 


Citizens of Greene County AL, especially the residents of Dollarhide, Forkland, and Tishabee (District 4), this is Greene County Commission Chairman Allen Turner, Jr seeking your prayers, support, and vote in the May 24, 2022 upcoming Primary Election. Our plan is simple but profound to continue representing and serving you with integrity and experience.
As you know, I am a lifelong citizen of Greene County; Deacon at Springhill Baptist Church; graduate of PHS, AAMU, Alabama Government Institute, Shelton State, and attended UWA graduate program.
Even though the last few years have been a challenge for us, we are grateful for God’s grace and mercy on our Nation as a whole. As current County Commission Chairman, I am committed to maintaining and continuing to provide a professional service to all our citizens, while keeping our county employees, staff and facilities at the highest level of safety possible.
Since 2010, I assisted in many accomplishments in the county and in my District:
Resolved the County’s financial issues and balanced the budget every year; created policies to give all our essential employees incentives and bonuses for their services, especially during this pandemic; spent millions on infrastructure throughout the entire county, especially county roads 148 in Dollarhide, 72 in Tishabee, and 41 (Lloyd Chapel Road) in Forkland.
I approved the installation of storm shelters at the Forkland Town Hall, Steamplant Road Fire Department, and soon to come Tishabee Fire Department.
We have also given more than 150 scholarships to high school and college graduates from District 4; created additional senior citizens programs at the Tishabee and Steamplant Road areas and developed youth summer feeding programs in Forkland and Tishabee.
Since 2017, we have provided outreach services throughout the District, repairing or replacing more than 200 roofs, wheelchair ramps, handicap accessible bathrooms and kitchens, also replaced essential appliances for our disabled and senior citizens.
Our Plan is to continue providing these current services while establishing more programs to better support the unity and growth in our communities. On May 24, 2022 Vote Allen Turner, Jr. Greene County Commissioner District 4, God Bless you.

Events to mark MLK Birthday in Greene County announced

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Spiver W. Gordon

Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement announced plans for the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday in Greene County, for the third weekend in January.

“In Greene County, we have been celebrating Dr. King’s Birthday long before it was a national holiday because of Dr. King’s work which brought civil rights and voting rights to our county. We also celebrate throughout the weekend, including on January 15, Dr. King’s actual birthday, as well as on the third Monday, which is the official national holiday,” said Gordon.

On Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 12:00 Noon there will be a Freedom Sidewalk Luncheon at Sandra Walker’s former Campaign Headquarters, in Eutaw, next to the new Courthouse on Tuscaloosa Street. Speakers at this outdoor program include: Sister Martha Lucia Tonon of the Guadalupon Multicultural Services; and Attorney John Stamps, III of the Black Belt Law Center in Bessemer, Alabama. Other speakers have also been invited to give remarks.

On Sunday, January 16, 2022, there will be a community program at First Baptist Church at 3:00 to honor Dr. King. There is a historical marker at the church remembrance of Dr. King’s coming to speak at the church in the 1960’s as part of the movement to change civil rights in this nation. Rev.  Kendrick Howell , will be the keynote speaker at this event. Rev. Lynn Finch is pastor of First Baptist Church.

On Monday, January 17, 2022 at 8:00 AM there will be a Freedom Unity Breakfast at the Branch Heights Community Center. After breakfast, there will be a march from Branch Heights to the William M. Branch County Courthouse in downtown Eutaw. At the Courthouse there will be a Freedom Rally with speakers, including Rev. James Carter, Rev. Kevin Cockrell, Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson, School Board Chair, Dr. Carol P. Zippert and other elected officials.

After the Courthouse Rally, the group will return to the Branch Heights Community Center for a Dreaming About Freedom Mass Rally with Teirdre Owens, Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Terri Sewell and others.


“We are hoping to have an inspirational series of events to start the year of 2022 in the right ‘freedom spirit’ to continue throughout the year.

Newswire: Tutu’s Last wishes shed light on ‘aquamation’ or ‘green burial’

Anglican priest carry Tutu’s plain pine coffin into funeral service

 


Jan. 3, 2022 (GIN) – Over the course of his 90 years, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu gave voice to his beloved nation in its struggle for change and reconciliation under Black majority rule. His last wishes for a green burial have sparked a tweet storm on the mostly unfamiliar practice among devoted followers of “the Arch”.
 
Archbishop Tutu was a key figure telling the world of the grievances of South African’s exploited Black majority. He did not mince words in a meeting with Pres. Ronald Reagan. American policy toward South Africa, he said, known as “constructive engagement,” was “evil, immoral and un-Christian.” 
 
To the foreign investors still reaping profits, he urged “persuasive pressure” for racial change but if that failed, “pressure must become punitive, that is, economic sanctions should be imposed.”
 
He even took on his countrymen, faulting the new political rulers for seeking their own advancement before that of the poor. “What is Black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but a small elite that tends to be recycled? We are sitting on a powder keg.”
 
The former teacher, cleric and activist was fearlessly outspoken across a range of topics, from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to gay rights, climate change and assisted death.
 
His last request, befitting a man who scorned ostentation and defended the environment, was that there be no “lavish spending” for his funeral and that his casket be simple, made of pine with only a bouquet of carnations from his family. He directed his remains to undergo alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional cremation that uses water rather than fire.
 
Aquamation is part of a growing “green burial” movement that avoids non-biodegradable materials and promotes natural decomposition. Advocates say it’s an environmentally friendly alternative to ornate caskets and cremation by fire, which emits greenhouse gases. The process uses an alkaline solution, heated under pressure to breakdown the human body, leaving behind bones, which are grown into ashes, similar to cremation.
 
After the private aquamation ceremony Archbishop Tutu was interred behind the pulpit from where he once denounced bigotry and racial tyranny.
 
The California-based Green Burial Council tweeted: “Even in death, Desmond Tutu remains a vigilant protector of the environment. He chose a green alternative to cremation — #aquamation — as his final act to nurture the Earth.”
 
“There is a more eco-friendly way of (cremation) and that is aquamation. It’s a process involving water and is more environment-friendly which is what he aspired to as an eco-warrior,” said the Rev. Michael Weeder of Cape Town.

Newswire: African American entrepreneurs head SPAC in $126.5 Million IPO to acquire Black-owned firms

Shawn Rochester and Robin Watkins

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


Shawn Rochester, who authored the spellbinding book “The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America,” and Robin Watkins, a highly regarded financial and operations accountant, have made Wall Street history.
And the two are poised to break through more barriers in the financial world. Their latest venture, Minority Equality Opportunities Acquisitions Inc. (MEOA), has raised $126.5 million they’ve earmarked to help minority businesses and enterprises grow and prosper through mergers and acquisitions.
“It’s amazing to be a part of this,” Watkins, a Drexel University graduate, stated. While Rochester serves as CEO of MEOA, Watkins counts as the company’s CFO.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” Watkins remarked during an appearance on PBS-TV and PBS-World’s The Chavis Chronicles with National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
The interview took place inside the new state-of-the-art NNPA television studios in Washington, D.C.
Because her grandfather owned a trucking company and café in Lawrenceville, Virginia, and her father and other family members were entrepreneurs, Watkins leaped at this latest opportunity.
MEOA raised the money after its initial public offering in August and now counts as the first special purpose acquisition company – or SPAC – headed by African Americans.
“We are trading now on the Nasdaq under MEOAU,” Rochester, who earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a focus in Accounting, Finance, and Entrepreneurship.
MEOA will target MBEs and Black-owned businesses nationwide. “We’re really a blank check company that’s funded through an IPO,” Watkins remarked.
“The funds are held in trust to acquire another company. In this case, we are looking at minority business enterprises to take them public through our IPO. We are the only SPAC that is targeting minority business enterprises.”
According to financial experts, SPACs generally have two years to complete an acquisition. If they fail, the company must return the money raised to its investors.
For Rochester and Watkins, failure isn’t an option. Rochester said they are looking at companies with enterprise values between $250 million and $500 million with recurring and predictable revenues. The criteria include having a history of being able to generate sustainable free-cash-flow.
“There is unprecedented demand for diverse suppliers, but many minority firms don’t have the resources to meet the demand,” Rochester said. “That’s where MEOA, and the decades of combined experience that our team has in operations, strategy, business development, and acquisitions enter the picture for the right business, to help accelerate growth,” he continued.
Further demonstrating a commitment to racial equity and economic inclusion, MEOA engaged the Industrial Bank of Washington, one of the country’s preeminent Black-owned institutions, for its working capital banking needs during the SPAC and IPO process.
The company’s directors are majority-minority including, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, MIT economist and Dean, College of Ethnic Studies, Cal State Los Angeles, Mr. Ronald Busby, Sr., President and CEO, US Black Chamber, Inc., and Mr. Patrick Linehan, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson.
“The mission and purpose of MEOA will help to catapult minority enterprise in this country,” Rochester asserted. “As a SPAC, we have the opportunity to not only help drive significant change and unleash superior performance but to also signal to the broader marketplace that there is tremendous value in companies and teams that have long been ignored.”