Newswire : Sierra Leone police arrest teacher activists over demands for living wages

Teacher in Sierra Leone

May 2, 2022 (GIN) – Schoolteachers in Sierra Leone say they’ve had enough after the arrest this week of Mohamed Salieu Khan, interim chair of the Teachers Solidarity Movement. He was grabbed by police outside the popular AYV TV station after speaking about the dismal plight of schoolteachers and their unequal conditions of service.
Two other TSM leaders were subsequently arrested despite President Bio’s claim to have expunged a law that hinders free speech.
Members of the Teachers Solidarity Movement in Bo, southern Sierra Leone, said they were seeking “living wages”, harmonization of salaries in the civil/public service, and improved employment conditions for all public sector workers in Sierra Leone. 
In an open letter dated April 21, the teachers group cited “the perennial hardship that political leaders from the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All Peoples Congress, the country’s two major political groups, have inflicted on Sierra Leonean teachers.”
For sixty years since Independence, teachers were treated recklessly and left to starve with impunity, the group stated in their letter.
“Don’t we deserve a better living like the lawyers we taught, the doctors we prepared, the bankers we raised, the engineers we schooled, the police and the Army we instructed and the very politicians we inspired?” they asked rhetorically. “Enough is enough”!
Teachers were destitute, they said, lacking transport, medical, rent or leave benefits, and the Education Minister had failed to relay this fact to the President.
They called on President Bio, the Teaching Service Commission and the international community, including the European Union representative, the Department for International Development (DFID), the US Embassy and the British High Commission to come to their aid.
National Security Coordinator, Abdulai Caulker, called their press release “unfortunate.”
The arrests were swiftly condemned by TV station AYV, which responded: “Mr Khan was a guest on the program and was arrested just outside AYV’s premises soon after he left the show…  AYV would like to remind the Sierra Leone Police that our work is protected by statutes including the most supreme law – the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
The Sierra Leone Bar Association also took a stand, condemning the police for arresting the schoolteachers for speaking out against the poor working conditions of teachers in Sierra Leone. 

 

Newswire: Former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli wins parole appeal after nearly 50 years in prison

Sundiata Acoli

By Anoa Changa, NewsOne

After nearly 50 years in prison, Sundiata Acoli is finally going home to spend his remaining days with his daughter and loved ones. The New Jersey Supreme Court released its decision Tuesday morning granting Acoli’s bid for freedom.  
Setting aside any political concerns underlying Acoli’s case, the state Supreme Court determined the parole board’s continued denial was “not supported by substantial evidence in the record or by a reasonable weighing of the relevant factors in N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11(b) that govern parole.” 
“Even under the most deferential standard of review, the Board has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that, if released on parole, Acoli will commit a crime,” read the decision. “Acoli must be released because the statutory standards for granting parole have been met, without regard to extraneous factors like sympathy or passion or public opinion.”  
Advocates were pleased with court’s decision.
“We applaud the New Jersey Supreme Court in granting Mr. Acoli’s freedom and correcting the parole board’s improper application of the law by denying his petition for release after serving more than 49 years in prison,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Civil Rights attorney and one of the primary advocates for Acoli. “It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community,” Elijah added.  
The preponderance of the evidence standard burden on the state is relatively low compared to the reasonable doubt standard present in criminal proceedings. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement expressing his disappointment and choosing to lionize law enforcement as “heroes” without any acknowledgment of why the parole board made its determination. The New Jersey State Police similarly expressed disappointment in a Facebook post.
But as the state Supreme Court noted personal feelings and opinions have no bearing on the determination of whether Acoli was eligible for parole based on his conviction arising out of the 1973 killing of Trooper Werner Foerster. According to the court’s majority, the applicable law is clear in the proper outcome. 
As NewsOne reported in January, Acoli’s release was backed by several groups, including Black law enforcement organizations.
“Holistic review of the parole hearing transcript from the full June 2016 hearing suggests the Parole Board does not fear Mr. Acoli has a substantial likelihood of future criminal activity,” explained the Black law enforcement groups in a brief supporting Acoli’s appeal. “Rather, the questioning by Parole Board members reveals a deep-seated discomfort with Mr. Acoli’s political affiliations and beliefs, anger and frustration at his unwillingness to accede to the facts of the crime as found by the jury which he has always maintained he does not remember, and concern that he has not been sufficiently punished even after all these years. Dissatisfaction with an old man’s contrition and memory does not equate to credible evidence of a substantial likelihood that he will commit a crime if released.”
His case also put a spotlight on the issues involved with those aging while incarcerated and the punitive approach of some state parole boards. Estimates suggest that continued incarceration of older individuals costs twice as much as a younger person, given the additional health needs with age.  
Lumumba Bandele, a coordinator with the Bring Sundiata Acoli Home Alliance and organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, challenged the arbitrary withholding of parole. 
“What we found nationally is there is a huge problem around parole, and people utilizing parole as a punitive measure,” Bandele said.  
It’s hard to believe the nature of the underlying charge and the politics surrounding his arrest and conviction had nothing to do with the continued incarceration. But as the state supreme court noted, it’s of no consequence to the statutory factors laid out for establishing whether Acoli was eligible for release. 
As news of Acoli’s pending release spread, the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign held a justice day action in Albany, New York. One speaker said that “revenge and perpetual punishment does not equal justice.” 
The group advocates for parole justice as a part of elder justice. A 2015 report by the Center for Justice at Columbia University argued that reducing elder incarceration is a part of comprehensive public safety strategies. The movement to release aging people has been widespread with recognition of how the application of state laws effectively converted some sentences to de-facto life sentences.  
While Acoli won his appeal, he still has yet to be released into the care of his daughter and loved ones. His family is one of many waiting for the return of their loved ones.
“There are, unfortunately, dozens of other incarcerated movement elders who are in similar positions, almost all of them are battling health issues and not just health issues, but life-threatening health issues,” Bandele previously explained.

Newswire: Black women in the South have been bracing for Roe’s fall for decades

Abortion protest march in Atlanta

By Char Adams and Bracey Harris, NBCBLK

Tight restrictions on abortion have already placed the procedure out of reach for many Black women in America — obstacles that will grow even more daunting if the landmark Roe v. Wade is overturned. 
Across the Black Belt — the Southern states where the echoes of slavery reverberate in legislation that perpetuates political and social inequities — women have long confronted overwhelming costs and logistical obstacles in seeking reproductive health care.
Earlier this week a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion signaled the end of abortion rights nationally, which would leave an already marginalized group, who seek abortion care at a higher rate, with less access to family planning services, resulting in poor health, education and economic outcomes, according to researchers, experts in family planning and advocates for reproductive justice.
“Women are going to die,” said Dalton Johnson, who owns an abortion clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. “It might not be as many as it was in the ’70s because we have medication abortions. There are groups that are going to have access to those — whether legally or illegally. But everybody’s not going to be able to do that and women are going to die.”
If Roe falls, many women in the South will turn to a network of grassroots organizations and advocacy groups led by Black women that has emerged out of necessity to fill gaps in health care coverage and the social safety net. These groups have already been helping women who struggle to compile the cash — and coordinate the time away from work, child care and transportation — that are necessary to get the procedure.
Laurie Bertram Roberts, the executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based nonprofit that offers funding and support for women who have abortions, recalls a woman who received financial aid after having to choose between paying her electric bill and paying for her abortion.
“One time, it was bailing somebody out of jail to get their abortion,” she said. Roberts and other reproductive rights advocates and leaders of small abortion funds across the South said that while they’re not ready for the challenge of Roe being overturned, they are as prepared as they can be.
“We’ve been planning for this possibility for several years,” Roberts said. “This isn’t a new threat, but it’s a larger threat. So many states could lose abortion access at once. Like 2,300 to 3,000 people get abortions at the clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, a year. How do you reroute 3,000 people out of state?”
Nearly two dozen states are likely to ban or severely restrict abortion access if Roe is overturned, and 13 have “trigger laws” to ban abortion immediately, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the Center for Reproductive Rights, which support abortion access. Advocates, organizers and experts all agree that Black women in the South will bear the brunt of these restrictions. 
Black people make up about 38 percent of Mississippi’s population, according to recent Census data, but they accounted for 74 percent of abortions in the state in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Alabama’s figures are similar, with Black people accounting for about 27 percent of the state’s population but 62 percent of abortions. 
Johnson pointed out that low-income patients and people of color already have to navigate a health care system that can be inattentive and discriminatory. But people with work obligations, financial struggles and lack of transportation also simply have a more difficult time getting to abortion providers in other states. This, organizers said, means they would be even less likely to get an abortion if Roe is overturned — worsening a cycle that perpetuates poverty for Black people. 
Research shows that unintended pregnancies hold people back from completing their education and getting and keeping jobs and can lead to poor health and economic outcomes for their children. People denied abortions are more likely to live in poverty, with economic instability and poor physical health. “It’s people who have been pushed to the margins,” said Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong, a Georgia-based reproductive justice organization that serves people of color. “It’s those living in states where access has been completely obliterated, they’re going to be impacted most — that’s people of color, low-income folks, queer, trans and gender-nonconforming folks.”
Black organizers have argued that Roe has always been “insufficient” for Black people who lack resources. So, they have resolved that the work after Roe will look a lot like the work they’ve been doing to fight for reproductive justice for decades — but intensified. 

‘Every dollar counts so much’ 

For two weeks in April, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which primarily assists patients in Southern states, had to inform callers and clinics that it was out of money for the month.
Although the fund is back up and running, A.J. Haynes, the board chair, expressed concerns last month that the nonprofit would be unable to raise enough money to help every caller in need. 
Many of the callers the fund supports live in states where the choice to have an abortion is more fatiguing than workable. Mississippi and Louisiana have the nation’s highest poverty rates, and residents make deep sacrifices to scrape up enough for their appointments. 
In 2021, most of the nonprofit’s callers were Black. More than half asking for help already had at least one child and received health insurance through Medicaid. Under the Hyde Amendment, people on Medicaid cannot access federal funding for abortion care.  
“Every dollar counts so much here,” Haynes said. “Every dollar is gas in someone’s tank. Every dollar is literal food in someone’s mouth.”
Across the Deep South, access to abortion care is already buckling, said Johnson, the Alabama clinic owner. The fallout from a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy has spilled over into surrounding states as clinics like Johnson’s serve an influx of new patients. Women in Mississippi, where the only abortion clinic in the state provides treatment up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, might travel hundreds of miles to the Alabama Women’s Center if they need a procedure further into their second trimester.
In 2020, abortion funds gave more than $10 million to support more than 400,000 people, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which includes Yellowhammer along with some 88 funds across the country — a majority of them in the South — and three international funds. 
But the locally run funds — many launched by Black organizers — can face an uphill battle in securing resources, even as donations flood Planned Parenthood and other national groups. 
“They will have to raise more money,” said Marcela Howell, president and CEO of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. “This will intensify their work. They will need more money to actually achieve what they’re trying to do. They’ll have to build their existing systems up to higher levels.” 
For more information and to donate, contact: YellowhammerFund.org or call 205/582-4950.

Newswire: Karine Jean-Pierre selected as first Black woman White House Press Secretary

Karine Jean-Pierre

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent



Karine Jean-Pierre, whose long career in Democratic communications led her to the podium last year as the second Black woman to hold a White House daily briefing, will regularly host those news conferences.
On Thursday, May 5, President Joe Biden announced that he has selected the Martinique native as his next White House press secretary.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a statement.
He added that outgoing press secretary Jen Psaki set the standard for returning decency, respect, and decorum to the White House Briefing Room.
Meanwhile, the historic nature of the appointment wasn’t lost on the President and others. “Karine is a lifelong public servant and fierce LGBTQ advocate,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute.
When Jean-Pierre steps to the podium on May 13, she’ll become the first Black woman and first openly gay person to hold that job.
“We are proud to have advocated for her historic nomination. As White House press secretary, she will not only be able to use her podium to represent the Biden administration but also the LGBTQ community during a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ hate and attacks,” Parker stated.
“As the first out LGBTQ person and the first Black person to hold this office, her appointment will inspire countless young people looking for hope and motivation during a dark chapter in our nation’s history,” Parker continued.
“Shattering this lavender ceiling is a testament to Karine’s grit, power, and commitment to our country’s potential. We are confident she will continue to be a strong ally and partner as she works in the highest office of the land.”
Psaki described Jean-Pierre as passionate. “She is smart, and she has a moral core that makes her not just a great colleague but an amazing mom and human. Plus, she has a great sense of humor,” Psaki tweeted.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said Jean-Pierre’s selection demonstrates that the Biden-Harris administration has held up its promise of a diverse staff.
“The NNPA, representing the Black Press of America, resolutely congratulates Karine Jean-Pierre, elevated as senior assistant to the President and White House press secretary,” Chavis stated.
“This is another historic step forward by the Biden-Harris administration in fulfilling their promise of equity and equality in the White House.”
In a 2021 appearance on The Chavis Chronicles, the Dr. Chavis-hosted PBS-TV show, Jean-Pierre said representation matters. “We’ve seen that from the first day of this administration, the President signed an executive order to deal with racial inequity and making sure that we saw diversity and inclusion across the board in the federal government,” Jean-Pierre said during her appearance on the show with Dr. Chavis.

“We’re living in a polarized country right now, and the one thing that President talked about when he was running, he wanted to make sure that he was the President for all,” Jean-Pierre remarked.

COVID-19

As of May 9, 2022, at 10:00 AM
(According to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 1,302,945 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
(1,774) more than last week with 19,601 deaths (31) more
than last week)

Greene County had 1,875 confirmed cases, (0) more cases than last week), with 48 deaths

Sumter Co. had 2,589 cases with 51 deaths

Hale Co. had 4,733 cases with 106 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has testing and vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 5 and up.

Terri Sewell brings her ‘Congress in your community tour’ to Boligee, Alabama

Alabama’s 7th District Congresswoman Terri Sewell brought her ‘Congress in your community tour’ to Boligee, Alabama on April 19, 2022. She is with Mayor Hattie Samuels of Boligee, in photo, who introduced her at the meeting.
Sewell spoke about working hard in Congress to bring the funding and benefits of the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure bills to her Alabama Black Belt district, which includes Greene County.
“We are doing better under President Biden than President Trump. We are getting our fair share and there is more equity and accountability to the people, in this Administration,” said Sewell. She also pointed out that she was the only member of the Alabama Congressional delegation to actually vote for the Infrastructure bill. “ I have let the state agencies handing the infrastructure funds for roads, bridges, broadband and other improvements know our priorities in the Black Belt,” said Sewell.
Sewell said she will continue her fight for voting rights despite the Senate’s failure to pass it or bypass the filibuster to approve the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. After answering some voter questions, Sewell said she was going to visit Branch Heights to view the tornado damage there firsthand and see what she could do to provide resources to assist the people who suffered damages to their homes.

Newswire: Ethel Payne, First Lady of the Black Press, and Alice Dunnigan, pioneering White House correspondent, honored at White House Correspondents Dinner

White House correspondents honored – Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne

by Dr. Barbara A Reynolds

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Alice Dunnigan, a southern-born granddaughter of slaves, and Ethel Payne, the renowned “First Lady of the Black Press,” received posthumous honors recently during the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Ethel Payne, the crusading globetrotting journalist, was my friend and mentor. When she made her entrance into journalism in the 1950’s the doors for her to achieve acclaim as a war correspondent and global activist were closed. She had to knock them down as she became one of the first Black women to be credentialed as a White House correspondent.
Payne first received public acclaim when as a host for the Army Special Services in Korea in 1950, she began writing about how Black troops were segregated in the U.S. Army even after President Eisenhower, issued an order to desegregate. She reported how Black troops were sent into battle without proper training which led to high casualties among them. For her reporting, about the conditions there and the flaunting of a presidential order, top U.S. government officials accused her of disrupting the morale of the troops. She had opened a bag of worms.
As a reporter for the Chicago Daily Defender, known as the Blacks’ fighting machine, for three decades, beginning in 1951, she continued her activism as a White House correspondent often irritating President Eisenhower. When the GOP invited choirs from Duke, Emory, and Howard to participate in its annual Lincoln Day celebration, the Howard choir arrived but were turned back. Payne critically raised the issue at a White House press conference, which so angered the President, that the flack made the New York Times. And after that people were asking ‘Who is that Black woman?” She was also a commentator on national radio, but her heart was always with the Black press and from that platform launched her to become one of the most trusted voices and viewpoints in America.
During her 30-year career at the Defender, she traveled with presidents and heads of state, filing important stories about African countries achieving liberation, such as Ghana in 1957, covered the Vietnam War, and worked to show the parallels with South Africa apartheid and segregation in the USA.
It was never lost on her that she sprang from humble beginnings. Born in 1911 in Chicago, her father was a Pullman Porter, but died young, leaving Ethel’s mother with six children to raise mostly on the salary of a domestic worker. She and the family worked and struggled together. “I worked in white folks, kitchens, I did factory piecework, any thing to keep us together.” She eventually attended Northwestern University, taking journalism courses, and recognized she had a flair for writing. She said she saw her role as an advocate for the weak, and that is how she used her talent. “Until I close my eyes,” I am going to be involved,” she told me.
Payne befriended me when I became one of the first Black women to cover the White House for the White Press. She saw that most of the white Colleagues I worked with resented and hindered me, rather than helped me and she came to my rescue and mentored me. In 1975, when I received death threats after writing an unflattering book about a popular civil rights leader, she, and other Black journalists, such as Vernon Jarrett, called a press conference, defending my first amendment right to report and write my own truths. The threats ceased.
She was the Grand Dame of journalism, having exquisite dinner parties at her home, where she served up news tips and wisdom, along with her salacious menus. I was honored, to be one of the journalists, who worked with Fisk University to establish a professorship in her name, where she published her book in 1979, entitled Roots, Rewards and Renewal, a study of Black colleges. The Ethel L. Payne U.S. postal stamp was issued on September 14, 2002.
As someone soon to be 80 years old, her thoughts on aging, I still hold dear. “Age is not a handicap. Age is nothing but a number. It is how you use it.” She also shared with me the three words she wanted to pass on to future generations: “agitate, agitate and agitate.”

Newswire : Germans fail to pay up for sacking Namibia’s indigenous lands

Protest of Germany’s action toward Africa

 

May, 2, 2022 (GIN) – Reparations—a system of redress for egregious injustices—are not a foreign idea imposed from the outside on the United States. On the contrary, the U.S. has given lands to Native Americans, paid $1.5 billion to Japanese Americans interned in the U.S. during World War II, and helped Jews receive reparations for the Holocaust, including making various investments over time. 
But the U.S. has yet to compensate descendants of Black Americans enslaved for their labor nor has it atoned for the lost equity from segregated housing, transportation and business policy. And no one will forget that American slavery was particularly brutal. 
Calls for justice are now resounding ever more loudly in the U.S. and around the world. European countries which benefited greatly from wealth stolen in the colonial era are struggling to respond. While several are taking initial steps to return some of what was seized, much more needs to be done.
One country that has managed to dodge financial restitution is Germany. Last year, Europe’s biggest economy offered just over $1 billion over 30 years for what Berlin said “from today’s perspective, would be called genocide” of indigenous communities. 
Much of the stolen wealth is in art and artifacts. More than 90 percent of the most prominent sub-Saharan African pieces of art are currently outside of the continent, writes Rokhaya Diallo in the Washington Post. To keep such pieces of art on French soil, she noted, France made them untransferable. Pressure from African countries made France acknowledge the unfairness, passing a law to return cultural goods to Benin and Senegal.
Madagascar was given back the crown of Queen Ranavalona III – one of the most precious symbols of Malagasy national pride.
Last but not least, more than a century after the horrendous genocide perpetrated in Namibia that killed 80 percent of the Herero and 50 percent of the Nama population, Germany started a discussion with the Namibian government in 2015 to “heal the wounds” caused by the historical cruelty.
A token amount was promised to the Namibian people, after years of activism from Namibian and Black German organizations. But the declaration failed to mention “reparations” or “compensation,” and Germany avoided any direct discussion with the Herero and the Nama. Parliamentarian Inna Hengari called this “insulting.”
While Namibian President Hage Geingob’s government accepted the offer, parliament did not, calling it insufficient. The deal is now on hold.
“That deal was never about us,” said Nandi Mazeingo, chair of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation. “You kill 80 percent of a community and offer a billion dollars spread over 30 years?” Germany, he said, must talk to communities directly.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, white farmers own 70 percent of commercial farmland, while “previously disadvantaged” groups own 16 percent. “Land is what made (Germans) rich,” Mbakumua Hengari told the Financial Times. “For the Herero and Nama, it was the start of trans-generational impoverishment.”
Meanwhile, Uganda has been ordered to pay the Democratic Republic of Congo $325 million for the occupation and plundering of its Eastern province more than 20 years ago – the largest reparation award by an international court for gross violations of human rights and for violations of international humanitarian law. 

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins celebrates
‘milestone” for diversity in space industry

By Char Adams and Donna M. Owens, NBCNews


NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins made history Wednesday when she and a crew launched into space aboard the SpaceX Dragon, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watkins will be the first Black woman to serve a long-duration mission on the International Space Station. 
Watkins is working alongside NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
The crew will embark on a six-month stint in the ISS laboratory conducting research and doing maintenance on the station, the space agency said. 
She gushed about the coming trip in a previous interview, agreeing that her mission is both a barrier-breaking moment and the natural progression of the field. 
“We have reached this milestone, this point in time, and the reason we’re able to arrive at this time is because of the legacy of those who have come before to allow for this moment,” Watkins said. “Also, recognizing this is a step in the direction of a very exciting future. So to be a part of that is certainly an honor.” 

Watkins’ mission has drawn praise from diversity and inclusion experts, but it shows just how far Black women still have to go in the white, male-dominated profession. 
“You know there’s not enough of us. Women are underrepresented in science, although it’s getting better in some ways,” said Mae Jemison, who made her own headlines in 1992 when she became the first Black woman to go to space.
“There is a lot of gatekeeping, both conscious and unconscious, that keeps people out. But once you are there, it’s ‘where do you fit?’ People hold you to a stereotype of what they consider a scientist. There’s this unrelenting requirement that you prove you have the right to be there. Many times I think that we achieve in these fields in spite of, not because of. ”Watkins will be the fifth Black woman to have gone to space. The others are Jemison; Stephanie Wilson, who, at more than 42 days, has spent more time in space than any Black other woman; Joan Higginbotham; and Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft. 
Watkins joined NASA as an intern and held several positions as a researcher and geologist before she was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2017. Watkins earned her bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University and her doctorate in geology at UCLA. Her career with NASA has been long and full of accomplishments: She has held roles at the agency’s Ames Research Center and studied near-Earth asteroids at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she was was part of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity.
While Watkins’ accomplishment is a great step forward for the space industry and evidence of its strides in diversity, there is still work to be done.
A report this year from the Space Frontier Foundation, a space advocacy organization, found that nearly 90 percent of people who have been to space are white men. And the space industry as a whole — from researchers and managers to writers and photographers —  is “only marginally better,” the researchers said. The report also found that white people in the space industry are more likely to make six-figure salaries than Black employees. 
“The fact that it’s taken this long to get African American folks on the ISS is disappointing. But it’s nice to see this focus is finally happening,” said Kim Macharia, a Black woman who is the chair of the foundation’s board. She highlighted that even though crews began living on the ISS in 2000, it took more than a decade for a Black astronaut, Victor Glover Jr., to serve a long-term mission on the station. Bernard Harris Jr. in 1995 became the first Black person to walk in space. Just nine years earlier, Ronald McNair became the second Black astronaut to go to space; he died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. 
“Less than 12 percent of all astronauts have ever been women, specifically. And then when you look at the number of people of color, the number is even lower there,” Macharia said. “But in the actual workforce at large, about 20 percent of the industry’s workforce is women. So, there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to addressing these demographics.”
Most recently, Jemison was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her widely recognized accomplishments in the field. Since leaving NASA, she has prioritized diversity in her own endeavors. She leads 100 Year Starship, a global initiative to support human travel to another star within the next 100 years. “I actively bring in people who embody that word ‘inclusion’ — across ethnicity, gender and geography — as well as across disciplines,” she said. 
Jemison isn’t the only former NASA employee to have taken on such a task. John Hines, a former NASA researcher, founded the Hines Family Foundation to provide resources and opportunities for children from disadvantaged communities interested in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. 
Now, as Watkins continues her career with a growing NASA, Jemison is using her recognition to push the industry forward. 
“Very frequently we have a tendency to forget that we have to continue to grow. And we don’t hold ourselves to that. I do,” she said. “I always hold myself to continuing to grow, learning new things and contributing in a different way.

President Biden issues first pardons, including first
Black to serve on a Presidential Secret Service detail

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On April 26, President Biden used his pardon powers as President for the first time.
The White House announced three pardons and the commuted sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders. The move by President Biden follows calls by justice reform activists to use the pardon power to correct disproportionate justice impacting minorities in the U.S.
Biden’s pardon list included Abraham Bolden, Sr., an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service agent who was the first African American to serve on a presidential detail.
“In 1964, Mr. Bolden was charged with offenses related to attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and following his conviction at a second trial, even though key witnesses against him admitted to lying at the prosecutor’s request, Mr. Bolden was denied a new trial and ultimately served several years in federal custody. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service.
Mr. Bolden has received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice. Mr. Bolden has also been recognized for his many contributions to his community following his release from prison,” a statement from the White House regarding Bolden’s pardon read.
Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, of Athens, Ga., was pardoned by Biden for his 2002 conviction for using his business to facilitate the sale of marijuana. “Since his release from custody, Mr. Jackson has converted his business into a cell-phone repair service and hired local high school students through a program that seeks to provide young adults with work experience. Mr. Jackson has also worked to build and renovate homes in a community that lacks quality affordable housing,” the White House release stated.
Betty Jo Bogans, 51, of Houston, received a pardon for her 1998 conviction of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Bogan, a single mother with no record, received a seven-year sentence because of harsh penalties at the time. “At the time of her conviction, Ms. Bogans was a single mother with no prior record, who accepted responsibility for her limited role in the offense. Because of the harsh penalties in place at the time she was convicted, Ms. Bogan received a seven-year sentence. In the nearly two decades since her release from custody, Ms. Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing treatment for cancer, and has focused on raising her son.”
The number of pardons indicate Biden may have many more to come. The use of the pardon power varies from President to President. Donald Trump used it several times to send political messages and celebrity cases.
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