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: More than 800 faith leaders demand Biden, Senate pass Voting Rights Bill

Martin Luther King III gives remarks during the NNPA’s Legacy Awards Gala at the National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. on June 23, 2017. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Rev. Martin Luther King III

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and more than 800 faith leaders from various religions are demanding that President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats immediately push through voting rights legislation.

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored,” the faith leaders wrote in the letter released on Thursday, December 23, 2021.

“Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress,” they wrote.

In addition to Sharpton and King, those signing the letter included a mix of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith leaders. Rev. Aaron Frank of Horseheads, New York, Rabbi Abby Cohen of Portland, Oregon, Rabbi Abby Michaleski of the Beth Israel Congregation, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi of Bethesda, Maryland, Rabbi Abram Goodstein of the Congregation Beth Sholom, and Rev. Adam Russell Taylor.

King and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, organized the leaders and wrote the letter. The African American Christian Clergy Coalition joined them, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life, and others joined.

The Congressional Black Caucus has pushed legislation, including two voting rights bills blocked by the GOP.

“This year, American democracy faced extraordinary challenges, from the violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol to over 30 anti-voting bills pushed through state legislatures, intentionally designed to silence Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, low-income, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and elderly and young voters,” the faith leaders wrote.

“During this season of giving and community, we are painfully aware that the promise of American democracy is thwarted by systemic racism and a system that works for the few at the expense of the public good.”

The letter continued: “It will continue on this path without prompt, substantive federal action. During the Civil Rights era, prominent leaders were driven by their faith to fight for equality. This is why we continue the push for voting rights today – our faith teaches us that each one of us deserves dignity and freedom.

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored. Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress.

“Nothing – including the filibuster – should stand in the way of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already passed the House and await Senate action and leadership.

“The communities we represent will continue to sound the alarm until these bills are passed. While we come from different faiths, we are united by our commitment to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.

“On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, we will accompany Martin Luther King III, Arndrea King, Yolanda Renee King, and voting rights advocates across the country to honor Dr. King’s legacy by calling for Congress and the President to restore and expand access to the ballot for all voters. It’s time to stop lamenting the state of our democracy and take action to address it.

“As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so valiantly said in his Give Us The Ballot address, “the denial of this sacred right [to vote] is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.”

“That is why this Martin Luther King Day, we will not accept empty promises. Congress must serve the nation and future generations by immediately passing voting rights legislation.”

Newswire: College loan debt hits a Black students at HBCUs harder 87% favor cancellation; 90% for wealth inequity fix

NC A &T University and students

by Herbert L. White, Charlotte Post


Nearly 9 in 10 Black students attending historically Black colleges and universities favor debt cancellation, according to a study conducted by education and lending advocacy groups. 

Eighty-seven percent of respondents strongly support debt cancellation while more than 90% of Black borrowers support policies that address institutional funding disparities and family wealth gaps that leave Black HBCU graduates with higher student loan debt than their white peers, according to the survey and focus groups conducted by UNCF, the Durham-based Center for Responsible Lending and UNC Center for Community Capital.

A panel of stakeholders that included U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte; NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson; federal student aid senior advisor Ashley Harrington and Robert Stephens, policy director at Voices for Progress discussed findings of the study and research on a virtual forum. 

“The history of HBCUs is one of triumph over adversity. Our institutions have had to overcome historic underfunding compared to (predominantly white institutions), and they’ve endured the legacy of Jim Crow,” said Adams, a Democrat who is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. “Unfortunately, the student loan debt crisis also plays an outsized role in the lives of HBCU students, many of whom are the first in their family to fill out the FAFSA form. Families of color are more likely to borrow and to borrow more and in higher amounts to finance their education. While the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis impacts 44 million families nationwide, the burden falls heavily on Black students. That is why I support canceling burdensome debt for our students. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also good public policy.” 

The study, which was funded by Lumina Foundation, compared the financial experiences of current and former Black HBCU students with their Black peers at PWIs, as well as with their white peers.

Among the survey’s findings:

• Black colleges extended themselves to supporting their students during COVID-19. Thirty-one percent of Black students at HBCUs received emergency aid from school, compared to about 21% of Black students at PWIs and 18% of white students.

• Black borrowers receive and provide financial assistance from or to their families. Research found that HBCU students typically graduate with substantially higher debt than their peers at non-HBCUs, which suggests they share financial resources with their families during college, by both receiving financial support and by giving it, at times.

• Food insecurity is an issue on college campuses. Student borrowers report skipping meals because there wasn’t enough money for food, including 44% of Black students at HBCUs and 29% at PWIs.

• Black women receive less financial support from family during their college matriculation compared to Black men and tend to struggle more to repay debt.

• Black respondents report overwhelming support for $50,000 across-the-board student loan forgiveness. Eighty-five percent of Black borrowers indicated strong support for student loan cancellation and more than nine out of 10 respondents favor the elimination of interest payments for all student loans. They also back increasing state funding for HBCUs, increasing the amount of Pell Grant, and cancellation of debt for people who were defrauded by their schools.
“There is a large gap between how black students experience student debt vs. how the rest of the world understands student borrowers and their ability to get to repayment status,” said Nadrea Njoku, interim director at UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. “Black students often need to use borrowed funds to help their families — not to just complete their educations as intended.  “This delays their ability to not only complete their degrees, but it creates a vicious cycle they may not escape from needing to work and help their families while at the same time needing to finish an education that would ultimately benefit them and their families.”

Joint policy recommendations by UNCF and CRL include wiping out student debt across the board; increasing federal funding for HBCUs; increasing the amount of the Pell Grant; improving income-driven repayment programs; reduce interest, eliminate interest capitalization and cancel origination fees on federal student loans.

“The recommendations made by the students included in this study help move the focus of college financing from getting a college education with an unwarranted lifetime financial burden that cripples students and their families to a place where students receive the freedoms and social mobility they were seeking from the start,” Njoku said. “These students come from underserved backgrounds and need to be at the forefront of the line to cancel the burdensome debt.”

Newswire : Mozambique gas project – multi billion dollar investment in a vulnerable nation

 

Fishing in Cabo Delgado
 
Dec. 13, 2021 (GIN) – An investment of $1.15 billion in a gas project in northern Mozambique is being challenged by Friends of the Earth which foresees a major increase in greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 percent by 2022.
 
That’s the equivalent of the combined annual emissions of all 27 EU member countries, according to FoE.
 
The decision to provide the finance package – one of the biggest ever offered to a foreign fossil fuel project by the UK Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs – is unlawful, the group maintains.
 
Mozambique is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, but also one of the most affected by the climate crisis and most vulnerable to its impacts. It is also in the middle of a .
 
Under the contract, the $20 billion development will extract 43 million tons of liquid natural gas (LNG) per year for 32 years from offshore gas fields in Cabo Delgado and will create 4.3 billion tons of combusted emissions.
 
FoE, represented by the UK law firm Leigh Day and the law firm Matrix Chambers will argue primarily that the failure of UK’s export credit agency to quantify the emissions produced from the use of the liquid natural gas (LNG) meant the conclusion that financing the project was compatible with the Paris Agreement, was unlawful. The project undermines Mozambique’s ability to meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, claims FoE.
 
“How can Boris Johnson expect the rest of the world to pull the plug on fossil fuels when his government is giving such enthusiastic support to a development that could have the same climate impact as the entire EU aviation sector?” asked Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth.
 
“The UK government should be supporting the building of a cleaner, safer future – not projects that will continue to fuel the climate emergency for many years to come,” Rundle added. 
 
Last month, the UK government ended overseas fossil fuel subsidies, ruling out support for a $3.5 billion oil pipeline in East Africa. “We believe the government acted unlawfully by failing to comply with its climate obligations, which is why we are taking legal action. 
 
UK’s export finance office had been accused by activists of “rank hypocrisy” over its record on fossil fuel financing. They acknowledged that there were both environmental and reputational risks in providing funding.
 
Lawyers at Friends of the Earth recently claimed that the gas development has worsened conflict in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, where armed militants have killed an estimated 2,500 people and displaced almost 700,000 since 2017.
 
The construction stage of the project alone displaced more than 550 families from their land, destroyed the local fishing industry and attracted radicalized militants looking to cash in on the development, the lawyers said. 
 
The US is also backing the $20 billion methane gas development. The US Export-Import Bank (Exim) has provided a $4.7bn loan to the project.
 
The government of Mozambique hopes the development will generate billions of dollars in revenue and catapult the country to middle income status by the mid-2030s – a big gamble at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has hit gas demand. 
 

Newswire: Alabama’s Bryce Young becomes first quarterback in team history to win the Heisman

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


Bryce Young isn’t even eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft, but his gridiron achievements certainly are pro-worthy.

The Alabama quarterback became the fifth sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most outstanding player award.

Young, 20, also becomes the first Crimson Tide quarterback to win the Heisman, and it marks the second consecutive year an Alabama player has won the award.

“I’ve always been labeled as someone who’s not the prototype, being an African-American quarterback and being quote-unquote undersized and not being that prototype, I’ve always been ruled out and counted out,” Young stated during his acceptance speech.

The six feet and 194-pound field general has thrown for more than 4,300 yards this season with a 68 percent completion rate.

During the 2021 season, Young has passed for 43 touchdowns with just four interceptions, and he enjoys a 175.5 passer rating.

“People a lot of times have told me that I wasn’t going to be able to make it,” Young exclaimed.
“And for me, it’s always been about not really proving them wrong but proving to myself what I can accomplish. So, I’ve always pushed myself to work the hardest, and I try my best to do all I can to maximize all that I can do. And thanks to the people around me and through the grace of God, I’ve been able to make it here, and I’m truly grateful for that.”

Young led the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record, including an explosive 41-24 victory over then No. 1 ranked Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Young broke the single game passing record, 559 yards against No. 22 Arkansas, and shattered SEC Championship record for total offense and passing yards after going 26 of 44 for 421 yards and three touchdowns during his first year as a starter.

Bryce is the 8th African American quarterback to win the award. Andre Ward was the first in 1989. Since 2010, 6 of the 10 quarterbacks selected to win the Heisman are African American.
Tim Tebow (Florida 2007), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma 2008), Mark Ingram Jr. (Alabama 2009), and Lamar Jackson (Louisville 2016) are the only other sophomores to win the Heisman in the award’s 86-year history.

Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M 2012), and Jameis Winston (Florida State 2013), are the only freshmen to win the award.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) profoundly congratulates Bryce Young, the African American star quarterback of the University of Alabama, for winning the Heisman Trophy,” NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., stated.

“Young’s outstanding achievement on the football field epitomizes the genius and excellent talent of African American athletes in all sports,” Dr. Chavis declared.

Newswire: Pioneering Black Golf Champ Lee Elder dies at 87

Lee Elder

 

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Lee Elder, a golfing pioneer, and the first Black player to compete in the Masters has died at 87.
“It’s remarkable to look back on Lee’s life and career and realize the hardships he endured and the sacrifices he made to reach golf’s highest level,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan.
“To have the success he had while paving the way for others to dream big and achieve is a testament to the type of man he was and how much talent he possessed. The TOUR is profoundly grateful for the career of Lee Elder, and we extend our sincere sympathies to his family.”
Born in 1934 in Dallas, Texas, Elder took up golf to help his parents financially. He caddied at the all-White Tennison Park Golf Club in Dallas, but soon the golf pro began allowing Elder to play the course.
In 1959, Elder joined the United Golfers Association and dominated the all-Black group. According to BlackPast.org, Elder won four Negro National Open Championships and an eye-opening 18 of the 22 tournaments in which he participated.
Using the purses from those victories allowed Elder to participate in the 1967 qualifying school for the PGA TOUR. In 1971, Elder made history as the first Black player invited to participate in the South African PGA Tournament.
“His participation in that event made this the first integrated sports event in South Africa since the establishment of the official Apartheid policy in 1948,” researchers at the Black Past wrote.
However, they noted further that Elder and other Black golfers continued to face racial challenges at home. “Although the PGA Tour was officially open to African Americans, it was not friendly to them. Many tournaments would not allow Black golfers into the clubhouse and instead required that they change and eat in the parking lot,” the researchers wrote.
However, in 1975, Elder made history again in Augusta, Georgia, when he was invited to compete at the Masters Open, the most prestigious tournament in golf.
With his victory at the 1974 Monsanto Open, Elder automatically qualified for the Masters Open, but he also became the first Black player invited. Unfortunately, Elder missed the qualifying round in the tournament.
Still, his entrance was an African American milestone covered by almost every major magazine and news program in the country, noted the Black Press.
Elder played in five more Masters, won three PGA tournaments, and was named to the 1979 Ryder Cup Team. He had a combined 12 tournament victories on the PGA and Senior Tours, earning more than $1 million on each tour.
However, his invitation to the Masters in 1975 proved that African Americans could compete at the highest levels of golf, the researchers continued. “Lee Elder was a pioneer, and in so many ways,” legendary golf champ Jack Nicklaus told Bill Fields during a PGATOUR.com interview.
“Yes, he was the first Black player to compete in the Masters Tournament, but that simply underlined the hard work Lee put in to further the cause of everyone who has a dream to play on the PGA TOUR and perhaps thinks there were too many barriers before them. It was wonderful that the Masters Tournament and Augusta National paid a well-deserved tribute to Lee by inviting him to be an Honorary Starter on this last Masters. That morning, you could see the joy in Lee’s face, and Gary Player and I were honored to enjoy that moment with him. That memory will remain special for so many, including me, for many years to come.
“Lee was a good player, but most importantly, a good man who countless people very well respected,” added Nicklaus. “The game of golf lost a hero in Lee Elder. Barbara and I send our heartfelt condolences to Lee’s wife Sharon and their entire family.”

Two Greene County teachers honored at memorial to educators who died from COVID-19

Mrs. Alisa Ward Allen
Mrs. Sandra Gordon
Leo Branch, Greene County School Board member places a flower on memorial bench for educators lost in coronavirus pandemic.
Two Greene County teachers – Mrs. Alisa Ward Allen and Mrs. Sandra Gordon – were honored as part of a memorial service held by the Alabama State Association of School Boards (AASB) at their October 17th Fall training conference in Montgomery.

The AASB honored sixty Alabama school board members, educators and school staff lost to the COVID-19 pandemic with a special space on the grounds of its Montgomery headquarters office at the corner of South Jackson and Houston Streets.

The association chose to create a permanent memorial space to commemorate the loss of those who dedicated their time to schools and school systems statewide. The new memorial features a special bench, oak tree and garden that will serve as a public space of reflection and remembrance for all whose lives they touched.

“Our school systems have experienced so much unprecedented adversity due to the pandemic – the most difficult of which has been the loss of so many dedicated school employees and leaders, and we felt compelled to recognize that in a meaningful way,” said AASB Executive Director Sally Smith. “We hope this memorial will serve as a poignant tribute to these education heroes who touched so many lives. We invite all to join us for this moment of reflection.”
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and AASB President and Baldwin County Board of Education Member Shannon Cauley delivered remarks at the ceremony. Leo Branch, Greene County School Board member, attended and represented Greene County at the memorial ceremony.
Mrs. Alisa Ward taught Language /Art and Mrs. Sandra Gordon was a Reading Coach both taught at Robert Brown Middle School.

NNO draws large crowd

Shown above District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne greeting the crowd along with Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson, Boligee Mayor Hattie Samuels, Assistant Clerk Joe Powell, and Mayor Pro-tem LaJeffery Carpenter.
Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson and the Eutaw Police Department sponsored their annual  America’s Night Out Against Crime  This event  was held Thursday, October 21, 2021 from 4-6 p.m.  at the former Carver Middle  School. Neighborhoods throughout the City of Eutaw were invited to join forces  for the  Annual National Night Out (NNO), a crime and drug prevention event. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community and the Police Department has an open door policy stated Eutaw Police Chief Tommy Johnson. Lots of fun, food and games were available. 

Newswire: Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin wants to clear her court record in Montgomery

Claudette Colvin at 15 and now

By: Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser

Claudette Colvin was 15 was she was arrested and given indefinite probation for refusing to surrender her seat on a segregated Montgomery city bus, nine months before Rosa Parks.
Now she’s 82 and a resident of an assisted living facility in Birmingham, and she’s lived her life with that probation, which was never lifted.
That could be about to change. Colvin plans to file a petition Tuesday in Montgomery Juvenile Court to have the records associated with her 1955 arrest expunged, attorney Phillip Ensler said. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated busing the year after Colvin’s arrest, and she was one of four plaintiffs in that case.
Fred Gray, her original attorney, will be beside Colvin as she files the petition Tuesday.
Ensler said the push has been led by Colvin’s sister, Gloria Laster. He said because she was placed on “indefinite probation,” her family was always fearful when she came back to visit Montgomery and did not realize the probation ended. Ensler said they want the court to formally clear her name.

“No one ever told her or her family once she became an adult, ‘Hey you’re no longer on probation,’ ” Enser said. “… It made her and her family feel like she’s always going to be under the eye of the government.”
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey and state Rep. Merika Coleman all plan to be on hand at the filing, Ensler said.
Colvin was charged at the time with assaulting an officer as she was forcibly removed from the bus. She told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2019 that she didn’t remember attacking police, but she remembers other details — like white officers debating her bra size and the sound of the key locking her in the cell.
“As a teenager, that’s when I became really scared,” Colvin said at the time. “In an old Western, when the bandits are put in the jail, you can hear the sound of the key go ‘click.’ I could hear the sound when the jailer locked it. I knew I was locked in, and I couldn’t get out. I started crying. I started reciting the 23rd Psalm.”
Before filing to clear her record, Colvin will join Gray at the Tuesday dedication of a Montgomery street that’s being renamed in his honor.
Colvin’s former attorney grew up on Jeff Davis Avenue in Montgomery, a street named for the president of the Confederacy. The Montgomery City Council unanimously voted in October to rename it Fred D. Gray Avenue, despite potentially violating a state law that was enacted in 2017 to protect Confederate monuments.

Greenetrack Inc. establishes Scholarship Fund at Miles College

Greenetrack officials with current and former employees who graduated from Miles College, pose with $20,000 check. L. to R. are: Frank Smith, Albert Turner Jr., Shemekia Little, Luther ‘Natt’ Winn, Greenetrack CEO, Bobbie Knight, President of Miles College, Johnny Coleman, Juanita T. Austin and Mary Snoddy.

 

On Thursday afternoon, September 23, 2021, Greenetrack announced it was establishing ‘The Greenetrack Inc. Scholarship’ at Miles College, an HBCU in Birmingham, Alabama. Greenetrack CEO, Luther ‘Natt’ Winn presented a check for $20,000 to initiate the scholarship fund to Dr. Bobbie Knight, President of Miles College. A number of current and former employees of Greenetrack, Inc, who attended Miles College attended the presentation.

“This scholarship’s purpose is to help students from western Alabama attain a degree so that they can return and help improve the quality of life in the region. This scholarship is being established with the initial contribution of $20,000 which will be generously supported by Greenetrack in the future,” said Winn.

Student must be from Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Bibb, Pickens, Choctaw, Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties to qualify for the assistance.

Coordination of the scholarship will be managed through the Miles College Scholarship Program. To apply for the scholarship, students must complete an application through Miles College.

Dr. Bobbie Knight, Miles College President said, “We are very appreciative of this wonderful assistance from Greenetrack Inc. which will help students from the area reach their educational goals. It was also great to see so many graduates of our college here today.”

Herlecia Hampton, Greenetrack Gaming Coordinator pointed out that Miles College is the fourth college in the state to receive scholarship funds from Greenetrack. The others include: Alabama A & M University in Huntsville, Alabama State University in Montgomery, and University of West Alabama in Livingston.