Newswire : Believe the hype: “Black Panther” sets box office records with $192 million opening weekend

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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A scene from the movie

“Black Panther” starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan, surpassed box office expectations during its opening weekend.
With $192 million in ticket sales so far, the film is expected to take in $218 million over the four-day President’s Day weekend and an incredible $361 million worldwide. According to ComScore, global ticket sales were set to reach $387 million over the weekend.
According to Entertainment magazine, “Black Panther” is already the eighth-largest single-day gross for the film industry ever and the third-biggest opening for a superhero movie.
Black Panther” scored a $75.8 million opening day. “The Avengers” opened with $80 million and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened with $84 million. The film also became the highest-grossing title in history at 33 AMC Theaters across the country, according to a report in the Hollywood Reporter.

“Black Panther earned more at those cinemas on Thursday evening and Friday—along with advance ticket sales for other times during the weekend—than any other movie has in an entire weekend. The number of theaters setting revenue records climbed to 80 locations, more than 10 percent of the entire circuit,” wrote Hollywood Reporter.

With that, “Black Panther” makes director Ryan Coogler the top-grossing Black director in film history. The previous record was held by “Straight Outta Compton,” which made $214 million worldwide in 2015. Marvel established the Black Panther character in the 1960s and the film features a majority African American cast and many strong female characters.
The pre-release news, nine month-long marketing campaign and anticipation over “Black Panther” mixed with good reviews and the politics of the time produced a ton of buzz around the film, long before it was released.

What word of mouth will now do for the film may mean that even more records will be broken.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist, political analyst and contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

Newswire : Is Donald Trump the worst President on minority issues in 50 years?

News Analysis by Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Donald Trump, a man best known as a “birther” with a reality TV show and a real estate empire, who claimed that Mexico was sending drugs and rapists to the United States, was sworn in as president on January 20, 2017. What happened next was predictable and we should expect more of the same in 2018.
Here are seven decisions from the past year confirming that Trump has been the worst president for African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities over the last 50 years.
1. Trump picks Jeff Sessions to succeed Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the U.S. Trump went out of his way to make sure that his administration’s justice policy reflected 1940s America, when he selected Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as his Attorney General.
According to a Huffington Post article published in January 2017, Sessions not only supported gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013, he also has “a record of blocking Black judicial nominees.” Sessions, “unsuccessfully prosecuted Black civil rights activists for voter fraud in 1985―including a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Since, Sessions has taken over at the Justice Department, he has recused himself from an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and ordered a review of Obama era police reforms. This is one time where the selection of Rudy Giuliani for attorney general may have actually looked like a more moderate choice.
2. Trump says “there were very fine people on both sides” at the Charlottesville White nationalists rally, during a Trump Tower press conference. Never mind that one of the largest gatherings of racists in America since the end of the Civil Rights Movement occurred only eight months into Trump’s presidency. Put that aside. Trump’s “both sides” comments on who was to blame for the public street fight in the college town was all anyone needed to understand regarding the thinking of America’s 45th president on the issue of race.
“I am not putting anybody on a moral plane, what I’m saying is this: you had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side,” said Trump. “But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”
Trump also said, “I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee.”
3. Trump calls for NFL owners to fire players over silent protests. Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” Just in case you missed it with his comments on Charlottesville, Trump was back again to spoil the start of the NFL season by commenting on players who dared to silently protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Trump called kneeling during the anthem, “a total disrespect of our heritage,” and a “total disrespect for everything we stand for.” The result was more protests by NFL players who then locked arms on sidelines across the U.S. with many White players and coaches participating.
Even Rush Limbaugh found himself having issues with Trump on this one. “There’s a part of this story that’s starting to make me nervous, and it’s this: I am very uncomfortable with the President of the United States being able to dictate the behavior and power of anybody,” said Limbaugh. “That’s not where this should be coming from.”
4. Trump uses an executive order to block travel of refugees from majority-Muslim countries to the U.S. When you have former staffers for Jeff Sessions writing executive orders on immigration policy, you can expect what happened at the Trump White House on January 27, 2017. With absolutely no warning, on the seventh day of his presidency, Trump signed an immigration and travel executive order. This order had Steven Miller’s fingerprints all over it, After a few days of chaos and protests at airports across the nation, federal judges applied an initial smackdown blocking the order. But Trump’s DOJ revised the order to pass some of those legal tests.

5. Trump launches sham voting commission to investigate “voter fraud.” Since many voting rights advocates agree that Republican-controlled state legislatures cook up the most egregious voting laws, it should have been surprising to no one that former Kansas Attorney General, Kris Kobach, would be a fixture of the Trump Administration. Kobach is the Vice Chairman and “driving force” behind Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Since, he’s spent so much time rooting out voter fraud that is all but non-existent, Kobach was perfect for the job.
According to the Brennan Center, Kobach was the “driving force behind a Kansas law that included both a strict photo ID requirement to vote and proof of citizenship to register—which has blocked thousands of eligible citizens from the polls” and “has repeatedly made extravagant claims of in-person voter fraud or noncitizen voting with little or no evidence.”
After Trump kept repeating the falsehood that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, everyone knew this was coming. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than Trump so a “voting integrity” commission was a given.
6. Trump pardons Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Bull Connor of his era, Arpaio was Sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., for 24 years. According to one DOJ expert, Arpaio oversaw “the worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agency in U.S. history.” Trump was perfectly consistent in his anti-immigrant rhetoric of 2016 in pardoning Arpaio on August 25, 2017 from a conviction for criminal contempt of court. Trump just couldn’t resist another opportunity to give a wink of approval to the right-wing.

7. Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Instead of nominating a Black woman to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama picked someone whose nomination no one cared about or would rally around (the instantly unexciting Merrick Garland). With that, the deal was done. The selection of Garland easily allowed the Republican-controlled Senate to ignore Obama’s pick and run out the clock out, opening the door for Trump to select Neil Gorsuch, who has “voted 100 percent of the time with the court’s most conservative member, Clarence Thomas, according to SCOTUSblog,” NPR reported.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist, political analyst and contributor to the NNPA Newswire

Newswire : Steve Bannon, most controversial Trump advisor, leaves White House post

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Civil rights leaders and members of Congress praised the dismissal of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from the White House; Bannon’s exit is just the latest departure from the chaotic Trump Administration, that has yet to win a major legislative victory.
Bannon seemed to be in good spirits after the White House announced that he would be leaving the coveted post.
In an interview with The Weekly Standard, Bannon said that he felt “jacked up.” “Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,” Bannon told The Weekly Standard. “Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”
He also told the magazine that he could be more effective without the constraints of the White House. “I can fight better on the outside,” Bannon said. “I can’t fight too many Democrats on the inside like I can on the outside.”
In a statement about Bannon’s dismissal, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said that Bannon needed to go, but so do other White supremacists working in the Trump Administration.
“Firing Steve Bannon is not enough, because the issue of him working in the White House has never only been about him,” said Richmond. “It’s also been about the racist and discriminatory policies he’s helped draft and implement which hurt African Americans.”
The CBC released “A Top Ten List of the Trump Administration’s Racist and Discriminatory Policies.” The list included:
1. Voter Suppression Commission
2. Supporting Texas’ Discriminatory Voter ID Law
3. Reinstating the War on Drugs
4. Attacking Affirmative Action at Colleges and Universities
5. Rolling Back Consent Decrees that Keep Police Accountable
6. Muslim Ban
7. Mass Deportation
8. Rolling Back Civil Rights Enforcement Across Federal Agencies
9. Reinstating the Use of Private Prisons
10. Refusing to Protect Americans and the Nation from White Supremacists
In a separate statement on Bannon’s removal, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) called the ousted Breitbart chief the standard-bearer for the worst instincts in American society.
“Whether Bannon personally trades in violence, racism, and bigotry, he allowed Brietbart, his media organization, to become a platform for White nationalism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant sentiment of the worst kind,” said Conyers. Although Conyers said that he was pleased that Bannon was no longer serving in the White House, he added that Bannon’s removal will not undo the damage that has already been done and it will not reconcile the hate-filled agenda of the Trump Administration.
“President Donald Trump has shown us his true colors,” said Conyers. “He sided with un-American White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and all those who give racism and hatred a voice. Trump’s failure to reflect on his dangerous rhetoric continues to embolden these groups and ideals.”
Civil rights leaders also voiced their support of Bannon’s exit.
Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said that Bannon was the driving force behind the racial turmoil that threatens to tear this country apart. “Such a divisive figure has no place in the White House,” Clarke said in the statement.
Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that Bannon’s departure was the right result, but not for the right reason. “The president, who continues to sow hate and division, clearly did not fire Bannon because of his White supremacist views and ties to the so-called ‘alt-right,’” said Gupta. “Someone like Bannon should have never worked in the White House to begin with.”
Gupta continued: “President Trump must address the deep wounds he has created by ridding his administration of Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, and any other staffers who stoke bigotry, hate, and division. Unless and until the president calls out evil; disavows neo-Nazis, White nationalists, and White supremacists; fires these staffers; and abandons his administration’s anti-civil rights agenda, he will continue to have no moral credibility.”
White House insiders have claimed that Bannon submitted his resignation letter earlier this month, but the announcement was delayed, because of the violent White supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one dead and 19 injured.
Since July 21, four senior staffers have departed the White House; Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
Derrick Johnson, the interim president and CEO of the NAACP, said that the group was glad to see Bannon out of the White House.
“Ousting one key staffer, however, can’t erase the words used by President Trump this week in defense of domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis and White supremacists,” said Johnson, in the statement about Bannon’s dismissal. “President Trump provided permission for these hate groups to exist. Following the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, numerous other rallies and White supremacist groups are being mobilized across the country.
Johnson continued:” These groups are not rallying for peace, or for the preservation of Confederate memorabilia. They exist purely to foment hatred and violence. And they march with the president’s blessing.”
Lauren Victoria Burke is the White House Correspondent for NNPA and a writer and political analyst. She appears on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin every Monday. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Bill to celebrate 400 years of Black History passes House of Representatives

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
In a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, the United States House of Representatives voted to establish a commission to examine 400 years of African American history.
House bill H.R. 1242 is designed “to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the House and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it’s waiting to be passed.
According to Washington insiders, the bill will most likely pass by unanimous consent in the Senate.
Once the bill known as the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act,” or H.R. 1242 in the House, passes Congress, it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk.
If H.R. 1242 becomes law, the resulting commission would consist of 15 members, who would serve without pay. The legislation would authorize the commission to create grants to communities, nonprofits and other groups to hold events that would commemorate the anniversary of slaves arriving in the U.S. The commission could hire staff and also accept volunteers to perform its mission. The commission would be required to submit a report to Congress and terminate in July of 2020.
In a statement about the bill last year, Kaine said that he’s been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that have been formed to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history. “Well, if English lives matter, if Latino lives matter, then African American lives matter and they’ve mattered every day since the landing of those ‘20 and odd’ African Americans at Point Comfort, Virginia,” said Kaine.
Kaine continued: “The story has a lot of pain to it, but it’s a story that has to be told to commemorate that we as a nation—had it not been for 400 years of African American history—would be absolutely unrecognizable. What we hope to do with this bill is engage in something we should do to tell the story in a different way than it may have been told 50 to 100 years ago.”
In late March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, “that implementing the bill would cost about $2 million a year—a total of $6 million over the 2018-2021 period.”
In a floor statement about the bill last summer, Rep. Bobby Scott said that African Americans have contributed greatly to the United States and their achievements deserve to be celebrated.
“The history of Virginia and our nation cannot be fully understood without recognizing the role played by the slave trade,” said Scott. “Slavery was an abhorrent institution; but for hundreds of years, it was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system and was essential to its economic sustainability.”
Scott continued: “The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act will be instrumental in recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619. From slavery, to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppression of Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement, the rich history of African Americans and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago but obviously does not end there.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. She appears on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin every Monday. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

President Trump and the Black Congressional Caucus plan to meet for the first time

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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 CBC members taken during a press conference outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in September 2016. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
Following a bizarre exchange with American Urban Radio Networks White House Correspondent April Ryan, the Congressional Black Caucus is in talks with President Donald Trump to set up a meeting.
Trump asked, Ryan, a veteran Black journalist, if she could set up a meeting with him and the CBC, as if Ryan was an employee of the White House or a special assistant to the CBC. Ryan responded by saying, “I’m a journalist.”
The confusing exchange was one of several moments at an unscheduled press conference Trump held at the White House on February 16.
“Since the White House has reached out in an appropriate manner to request a meeting with the caucus, I am now in discussions with them about setting one up,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said in a statement after the press conference concluded.
During an interview on MSNBC on February 17, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said that, “Steve Bannon cannot be in the room,” when the CBC meets with President Trump. “He’s a stone cold racist.” Bannon is currently the president’s chief strategist and served as a high-ranking executive at Breitbart News, an online publication known for trafficking in right-wing, alternative news that Bannon himself defined as “the platform for the alt-right.” The term “alt-right” is increasingly used to describe a new and emerging movement of racists and White supremacists.

Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.), said the following in response to President Trump’s comments regarding a meeting with the Black Caucus: “President Trump has been in office for almost a month and the Congressional Black Caucus — which at a historic 49 members is almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus and represents millions of African Americans — did not hear from the White House until we introduced ourselves on Twitter after the White House press conference today.”
The statement continued: “For whatever reason, the letter the Congressional Black Caucus sent to then President-elect Trump and incoming White House officials on January 19 was not enough to get their attention. As the letter explained, President Trump’s ‘New Deal for Black America’ is ill-informed and insufficient and he would be wise to tap into the decades of expertise held by the Congressional Black Caucus when it comes to addressing issues that affect African Americans.”
The CBC, which is now at its largest membership in history, traditionally requests a meeting with the new president after the inauguration. Ironically, some of the meetings the CBC had with President Obama, specifically on the topics of jobs and the challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, have had tense moments. President Obama did not meet with the Congressional Black Caucus during his first year in office. Meetings between Obama and the CBC were scarce even though most of the members and the President were members of the same party.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

The CBC places Blacks in power on Capitol Hill

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

hillstaffers_7892_fallen_web120More than 75 percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have Black Chiefs of Staff. This photo was taken during a recent CBC press conference outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

 

In early December, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies led by Spencer Overton, released a devastating report on staff diversity in the United States Senate.“African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 0.9 percent of top Senate staffers,” the report found.

The Joint Center was careful to focus on senior staff positions in their Senate staff study. On January 5, the National Urban League will host a forum on Senate staff diversity on Capitol Hill. The only good news regarding the numbers on Black staff in the halls of power in Capitol Hill is on the House side.

More than 75 percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have Black Chiefs of Staff. Currently, 32 members of the CBC have a Black Chief of Staff. Additionally, the Senate’s only Black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), currently employs the Senate’s only Black Chief of Staff.

In July, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan posted a photo on Instagram of over 70 Capitol Hill interns and not one was African American. Internships and fellowships on Capitol Hill are a key pipeline to building leadership experience in the halls of power.

Speaker Ryan’s Instagram image was a jarring visual of what many have known on Capitol Hill for years: That the staffs and the pipelines to get to power and be positioned for decision-making roles remains overwhelmingly White. Ironically, Ryan will have a Black Chief of Staff, Jon Burks, starting this month.

But when it comes to the number of senior staffers in Congress overall, particularly Chiefs of Staff, members of the CBC easily employ the majority. Though Black Chiefs of Staff are all but non-existent (1 percent) in the U.S. Senate, on the House side it’s a different story. Black Chiefs include Duron Marshall who is Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s (D-Mich.) Chief of Staff; Yelberton Watkins, who is Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) longtime Chief of Staff; Michael Cooper who is Rep. John Lewis’ (D-Ga.) Chief of Staff and Veleter Mazyck, who is Rep. Marcia Fudge’s (D-Ohio) Chief of Staff.

It matters who serves in the very top jobs: Those in senior staff positions have a major say in policy decisions and advise lawmakers directly. Chiefs of Staff and other senior staff members often move on to powerful well paying jobs in the private sector.

On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., just as in most places where there are budgets allocations to be decided on and jobs to fill, the person who makes the decision on those matters is the person with the most power and that often is not only the elected official, but also their Chief of Staff.             The Chief is also the gatekeeper for resumes and hiring staff. A typical Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill earns between $120,000 and $168,000.The conversation on hiring has been going on for years, but it was crystalized by the detailed report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

For many White Democrats in the Senate the numbers are particularly embarrassing. Several Senators, who have millions of African American constituents, have no Black senior staff members. The state with the most African Americans in the U.S. is Georgia with 3.1 African Americans according to the 2010 Census. Georgia is followed by New York (3 million), Florida (2.9 million), Texas (2.9 million), California (2.9 million), North Carolina (2 million), Illinois (1.8 million), Maryland (1.7 million), Virginia (1.5 million) and Louisiana (1.5 million).

But not one Black senior staffer from any of those states now serves on the staffs of the U.S. Senators from the above states with the largest African American populations. None of them have a Black Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, Communications Director or State Director.

On December 12, outgoing Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield released a statement on staff diversity. “The near complete absence of African American senior staff in personal and committee offices in the Senate is not reflective of the inclusiveness ideals of our government, and of our country. The CBC has long championed African American inclusion in all industries, and launched CBC TECH 2020 last year to promote diversity in the technology industry,” said Butterfield. “But the fact that the United States Congress, an institution that was created to represent all people, still has not taken meaningful steps to increase diversity is disappointing and requires an immediate remedy.”

Butterfield continued: “There are plenty of offices hiring, on both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers, where Senators and Representatives can hire talented African American candidates. Yet, from our records, with the start of the next Congress, the Senate is poised to have one African American Senate Chief of Staff and no African American staff directors, if immediate action is not taken.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.