By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL) will run for the U.S. Senate seat out of Florida currently held by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, an advisor to the campaign has confirmed exclusively to the Black Press. Stories had floated in mainstream media outlets this week that Congresswoman Demings was considering a run against Rubio, but it was just speculation until now. “She is planning a Senate bid with a more formal announcement coming in June,” Mark Bergman, Congresswoman Demings’ advisor said on Tuesday, May 18. Electing a Black woman to the U.S. Senate this cycle is a top organizational priority, Quentin James and Stefanie Brown James, the co-founders of The Collective PAC, proclaimed on Tuesday, May 18. “We are proud to stand with [Congresswoman] Val Demings (D-Fla.),” the couple, who represent the PAC, stated. “There has never been a more crucial time for us to elect leaders who are committed to criminal justice reform, safeguarding voting rights, and ensuring government officials are held accountable for unethical behavior,” the couple stated. The Collective PAC is an organization formed to boost Black participation in elected office. CNN noted that such a bid would provide Democrats with a high-profile candidate in a key Senate race against a nationally known – and well-funded – opponent, Republican Rep. Marco Rubio. The network cited a source close to the Congresswoman who said she had spent the last few months mulling over a statewide race and recently decided on a bid for the Senate over governor. “Congresswoman Demings will make for a great candidate and we are positive it will be a successful outcome,” a source close to the Congresswoman told the Black Press. “She is confident, and why shouldn’t she be?” Congresswoman Demings has dedicated her life to public service, including a nearly three-decade-long career in the Orlando Police Department. In 2007, she became the city’s first female police chief. On then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president, Congresswoman Demings became the first woman and one of the first African Americans to prosecute a presidential impeachment before the U.S. Senate, where she serves on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Intelligence Committees. In a live interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association last summer, Congresswoman Demings stated her case for vice president and other potential offices. “You all know my history. I grew up the daughter of a maid and a janitor in Jacksonville, Florida,” the Congresswoman offered. “The youngest of seven children, I watched my father go to work every day, working odd jobs to keep a roof over our heads. I was the first in my family to graduate college. I worked as a social worker, law enforcement officer, and now a member of Congress.”
The Nation of Islam has clarified and contradicted mainstream media reports that erroneously identified the individual who recently attacked the U.S. Capitol as one of its members. In a statement to the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade association of the 230-member Black Press of America, officials at the Nation of Islam said Noah Green, who killed a police officer in the attack and died from injuries sustained during his action, was not a member of the Nation of Islam. The organization also denounced the violent attack, noting that its members and leaders are appalled by violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week. Here is the full statement from the Nation of Islam on April 6, 2021. Brothers and Sisters of the Black Community, members of the press, and the American People: We have prepared this statement to answer some of the many inquiries that we have had over the last few days about Mr. Noah Green. Naturally, we, like most of you, were disturbed watching the news of an assault on the U.S. Capitol where one police officer was killed, one was injured, and Mr. Green was killed. We speak on behalf of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the members of his family, all of the registered Muslim members of the Nation of Islam, and all people of good will everywhere, in that, we are in sympathy with the victims of this tragedy. And we are in sympathy with the families of these victims. And we, like you, can only offer them condolences and our deepest sympathy for their loss. Our prayers are for the full recovery of the officer who was injured. The Nation of Islam has no history of violence against the government. Federal, state, and local law enforcement are all well aware of our history. We have held four national marches, including the Historic 1995 Million Man March, which we know to be one of the largest gatherings in the history of the United States of America and the most peaceful on the U.S. Capitol grounds. We had a good working relationship with the U.S. Capitol police during each of these historic events. It is being reported that Noah Green was a “follower” of the Nation of Islam. This young man, Noah Green, we believe may have attended our Saviours’ Day convention in Detroit, MI in February 2020. In March of 2020, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we closed our Mosques, and began conducting meetings and classes remotely. A search of our records indicates Noah Green was not a registered member of the Nation of Islam. It appears that in late summer (August-September) of 2020, he started the process to begin his study to become a member, but he did not complete the process. He did make a donation to the Saviours’ Day Gift. Every year, the followers and supporters make a charitable donation to the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day Gift charity. Every donor who makes a donation of $1000 or more is issued a Certificate of Completion. This certificate does not establish that the donor is a member in good standing in the Nation of Islam. Mr. Noah Green’s alleged use of an automobile as a weapon and the alleged possession of a knife as reported, violates our teachings. We absolutely disavow this act that resulted in the senseless loss of life. It is shocking for us to learn that someone who was attempting to be a part of our ranks may have been involved in something as tragic as this. But, we respectfully say to the members of the media and to the American people, Timothy McVeigh confessed that he was a Christian, but nobody blames the church for his misconduct. No one would blame Jesus or their pastor for unlawful and immoral behavior that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. You have criminals, people that do horrific things, but we never know their religion. It’s not important because religion does not teach criminal behavior. Criminal behavior is an aberration. Criminal behavior is a violation. Criminal behavior is absolute rebellion toward what God teaches through the mouth of His prophets. When thousands of American citizens engaged in an attempted insurrection, attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, resulting in the deaths of five persons and injuring many, the news media did not question what their religion was. Nowhere in the teachings of Islam, nowhere in the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, could we countenance any man taking the life of an innocent human being. For us, human life is sacred. And the violation of human life is a violation of God, Himself, because He’s the giver of life and He’s the ultimate cause of death. But He doesn’t give us the right to kill innocent people. That is against our law. We are taught “to never be the aggressor in word or in deed”, for Allah (God) hates aggression and is not with the aggressor. This is our teaching. In fact, all of us who are members of the Nation of Islam have been instructed not to carry any weapons—not so much as a penknife—not on our persons and not in our homes. We do not rely on weapons of war to defend us. We rely on our belief and our faith in Allah (God). We condemn the wicked mischaracterization of some media reports trying to tie this tragic incident to the teachings of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and all people of good will should do the same as well. So, most of us, like you, are questioning why would this young man allegedly do such an act? If he did, what happened to him? What caused this? The family released a statement published in the Washington Post saying of Noah Green, he “was not a terrorist by any means.” He had been studying for his master’s degree in business administration but had also suffered from “depression and potential mental illness.” It has also been reported in an article from CNN, that he shared on social media, “I have suffered multiple home break-ins, food poisoning, assaults, unauthorized operations in the hospital, mind control.” This young man had struggled in his early life but overcame much as a student to graduate with a degree in finance. He had a wonderful, noble idea to help the black and brown people through his knowledge of finance. “I am sure,” Minister Farrakhan states, “had he been blessed to come through the crisis that he was going through, he would have been a star in the mission of the resurrection of our people. We need to know what happened to our brother.” So, our research is continuing into what happened to this young man and we cannot rest until we find out what caused him to take a turn like this. We are saddened by the loss of this brother with such great potential. With heavy hearts we offer sympathy and condolences to his mother, father, family and friends.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
In August 2018, the National Newspaper Publishers Association began a series on the transatlantic slave trade.
The series started in conjunction with the annual United Nations International Day of Remembrance. With the observance of the first African landing in America, some question whether it’s the 400th or 500th anniversary.
Historians point out that the 400th anniversary is the 400th year of the Anglo-centric history of Africans in the Americas.
“Dating the history of Africans in North America to 400 years ago reinforces this narrative of English superiority,” Greg Carr, the Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, told Time.com.“Remembering the Spanish and indigenous sides of the history is more important now than ever as the people are closing the borders to those who are descendants from people who were here when you came,” Carr said.
In his 2013 PBS documentary, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,”Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., said slavery was always an essential ingredient of the American experiment. Gates called slavery, “The supreme hypocrisy,” and “capitalism gone berserk.”
The first African to come to North America was a free man who accompanied Spanish explorers to Florida in 1513 – or 106 years before the 20 Africans who were kidnapped and brought to Point Comfort, Va., in 1619, Gates said.
“The father of our country was one of its largest slave owners,” Gates said in the documentary.
“Because of the profound disconnect between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the simultaneous practice of slavery, we’ve had historical amnesia about slavery,” he said.
Indeed, the slave trade began in the 15th century, said Boniface Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe. It was driven by colonial expansion, emerging capitalist economies and the insatiable demand for commodities – with racism and discrimination serving to legitimize the trade, Chidyausiku said.
Chidyausiku, then the acting president of the United Nations General Assembly, made the remarks in 2007 during the UN’s observance of the 200th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade.
“Fortunes were made, and financial institutions flourished on the back of human bondage…[so] today’s commemoration must encourage everyone to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and to redouble efforts to stop human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery,’” said Chidyausiku, who is now 69.
Michael Guasco, a historian at Davidson College and author of “Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” suggests it’s the 500th anniversary.
“There’s a Hispanic heritage that predates the U.S., and there’s a tendency for people to willingly forget or omit the early history of Florida, Texas, and California, particularly as the politics of today want to push back against Spanish language and immigration from Latin America,” Guasco told Time.
The fact that slavery was underway for a century in South America before introduction in North America is not widely taught nor commonly understood, Felicia Davis of the HBCU Green Fund told NNPA Newswire.
“It is a powerful historical fact missing from our understanding of slavery, its magnitude, and global impact. The knowledge that slavery was underway for a century provides deep insight into how enslaved Africans adapted,” Davis said.
Far beyond the horrific “seasoning” description, clearly generations had been born into slavery long before introduction in North America, Davis said.
“This fact deepens the understanding of how vast majorities could be oppressed in such an extreme manner for such a long period. It is also a testament to the strength and drives among people of African descent to live free,” she said.
Prior to 1619, “America had a system of discrimination and prejudice against all groups who were not identified as White Anglo-Saxon native,” said Walter D. Palmer, who started a Community Freedom School for children and adult learners in Philadelphia that would become the platform on which he built his social legacy.
“By the mid-1600s, America created the slave codes,” Palmer told NNPA Newswire.
During the country’s founding, many settlers learned from and lived close to Native Americans on the east coast, said author Cassie Premo Steele.
For example, it wasn’t until resources like silver were found on what was Cherokee land that Andrew Jackson ordered the removal that became known as the “Trail of Tears,” Steele told NNPA Newswire.
“Further genocides and removals took place in the West when similar resources and land were desired by white Americans,” Steele said.
“Similarly, slavery was primarily an economic system that was based upon the dehumanization of Africans. Dehumanization is in some ways even worse than hate since it is a denial of the humanity of a people,” she said.
The observance of the 400th anniversary of the first African landing at Point Comfort, Va., did bring about changes, according to Time. It was the type of race-based chattel slavery system that solidified in the centuries that followed was its unique American tragedy.
“To ignore what had been happening with relative frequency in the broader Atlantic world over the preceding 100 years or so understates the real brutality of the ongoing slave trade, of which the 1619 group were undoubtedly a part, and minimizes the significant African presence in the Atlantic world to that point,” Guasco said in a History.com interview earlier this month.
“People of African descent have been ‘here’ longer than the English colonies,” he said.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
There’s a new sheriff in Jefferson County, Alabama. Democrat Mark Pettway defeated longtime Republican incumbent Mike Hale, making Pettway the first African-American sheriff in the county whose largest city is Birmingham. “We have a plan to fight crime and to make sure the cities are safe,” Pettway said after receiving a concession call from Hale. Pettway won more than 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial tallies on Tuesday. In addition to his many supporters, Pettway credited for his historic victory to the help of the Purpose P.R. Firm in Alabama and its head, Andrew Wyatt, who helped spread Pettway’s message of freedom, justice, equality and inclusion and the importance of Jefferson County in the Civil Rights Era. Pettway also said he was grateful to the National Newspaper Publishers Association, whose member papers didn’t shy away from carrying his message. “Thank you,” Wyatt said to the Black Press on behalf of Pettway. The history of Jefferson County, particularly Birmingham, is unmistakable as the flashpoint of the Civil Rights Movement where the city saw much bloodshed and strife as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others fought for freedom, justice and equality. The Birmingham historical society notes that the city today offers a “sobering and reflective experience for anyone interested in this important era of American history.” Until last year, the sheriff’s department was under a federal consent decree because of its unfair hiring and promotion practices and Pettway, a longtime sergeant, said he’d seen a lot of discrimination and other problems during his 18-year tenure in the department. The consent decree was issued as part of a 1970s-era consolidated lawsuit that alleged the County, City of Birmingham, Sheriff’s Department, and the Personnel Board of Jefferson County discriminated against Blacks and women in their hiring and promotions. Birmingham and the Jefferson County Personnel Board, which provides employment services for the county and cities, were ultimately released from their decrees. Last year a U.S. District Judge finally released the Sheriff’s Department from the decree. “Still,” Pettway said, “not much has changed,” which counted as the primary reason he ran for sheriff. “It didn’t get any better. We’re still not where we should be and after watching other activists in action, I decided it was time for me to rise up and do something,” Pettway said. “That Birmingham, Alabama still resembles in some ways its racist history should be alarming to residents and voters,” Pettway said. Hale who transferred to the Sheriff’s Department in 1976, is expected to help make Pettway’s transition smooth. “I asked him to help with the transition,” Pettway said after receiving the congratulatory phone call from his opponent. “This is a very important and historical election and it’s an opportunity for change. It’s a chance for us to have a seat at the table where we can make those changes and where the hiring practices can be better for people of color and for women and where a [minority] can say, ‘hey, I can be Sheriff one day, too,’” Pettway said. A lifelong Jefferson County resident, Pettway grew up in a working-class neighborhood not far from Birmingham’s Legion Field Stadium. The son of the late Retired Army Sgt. First Class Officer Ed Pettway, and Jefferson County School Teacher Camilla Satisfield, Pettway said he began to realize his potential as his parents provided him with something far greater than material wealth. Specifically, they instilled in him strong moral principles, a robust work ethic and a burning desire to excel. Given his ability to implement this rare yet useful combination of gifts, many said it’s no surprise he learned the value of hard work and determination at an early age. Pettway began his professional career in 1991 at the Birmingham Police Department, where he served as a Correctional Specialist. In 1993, he joined the Fairfield Police Department as a police officer, where he helped to strengthen the law enforcement system by responding to calls, making arrests, issuing citations, and testifying in court cases. In 1999, he joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. In 2008, he was promoted to detective and has earned a number of commendations from Hale. He said community policing and criminal justice reform top his agenda. “We have to bridge the gap right now between law enforcement and the community. Right now, there’s no trust and we need body cameras and dashboard cameras and, under my watch, we will be transparent,” Pettway said. “I will implement accountability and the community will know their officers. The officers will get out of their cars and the community will know them by their names,” he said.
Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. was the first African American astronaut. (USAF/Wikimedia Commons)
Fifty years ago, a tragic accident ended the groundbreaking career of Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., a Chicago native and stellar Air Force pilot who became America’s first Black astronaut.
On December 8, 2017—the 50th anniversary of his death—NASA honored his often-ignored legacy and contributions to the agency.
Earlier this year, the Chicago Crusader reported about the lack of visibility of NASA’s first Black American astronaut and helped to raise awareness about Lawrence’s incredible journey.
In planning a story for its annual Black History Month edition, Chicago Crusader staffers discovered that little was being done to honor Lawrence, while NASA held memorials to mark the 50th anniversary of three, White astronauts who perished in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 space module, during a preflight testing.
The Crusader story lauding Lawrence’s achievements was published in dozens of Black newspapers after the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) carried it on its newswire.
Born in 1935 to the late Gwendolyn Duncan and Robert H. Lawrence, Sr., the future Air Force pilot was a man ahead of his time. Long before magnet and STEM programs were part of the high school curriculum, Lawrence excelled in math and science.
At 16, he graduated with honors from Englewood High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bradley University. He married the late Barbara Cress from the prominent Chicago Cress family and entered the Air Force at age 21 before earning a doctorate in physical chemistry from Ohio State University, becoming the first astronaut at NASA to earn a doctorate degree.
As a United States Air Force pilot, Lawrence accumulated over 2,500 flight hours. In June 1967, Lawrence graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (Class ‘66B) at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. In that same month, he was selected by the USAF as an astronaut for their Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, thus becoming the first Black astronaut.
Lawrence died while training another pilot, Maj. John Royer, to perform the “flare” maneuver—an operation that Lawrence had already mastered— in the F-104 Starfighter.
According to NBC News, “Lawrence’s memory languished in obscurity” partly due to the fact that, the Pentagon only recognized someone as an “astronaut” if they actually flew to an altitude above 50 miles.
However, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Va.) mounted a campaign that forced NASA to put Lawrence’s name on the Space Mirror Memorial in 1997—thirty years after Lawrence’s death.
“On Dec. 8, 1997, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Lawrence had his name unveiled on the Florida memorial,” NBC News reported.
The ceremony recognizing Lawrence, earlier this month—although spirited, at times—was a somber one for the 300 guests that included decorated NASA astronauts, dignitaries, relatives, and friends, who had flown and driven miles across the country to honor Lawrence at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Lawrence’s older sister, Dr. Barbara Lawrence, attended and spoke; another prominent Chicago resident who was present was E. Dawn Griffin, the oldest daughter of Ernest Griffin, founder of Griffin Funeral Home in Bronzeville. The Griffin Funeral Home, which closed in 2012, handled the funeral arrangements for Lawrence.
Members from Lawrence’s college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, also attended to honor one of their own. On the sprawling grounds of the NASA facility, they participated in a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony that began at the Center for Space Education and culminated with an emotional wreath-laying ceremony at the base of the national Space Mirror Memorial, a massive black granite structure where Lawrence’s name is among those of 20 astronauts who either died in flight or in training.
The ceremony brought out some of NASA’s astronauts and biggest officials. Charles Bolden, America’s first Black NASA chief administrator, and Stephanie Wilson, the second Black female astronaut, attended the service. Another Black astronaut, Winston Scott, played the trumpet in a band that performed various jazz songs, including, “Fly Me to the Moon.” Reportedly, jazz was one of Lawrence’s favorite musical genres.
Dr. Barbara Lawrence shared her experiences with her brother as they grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She said, when Robert was young, he was a very disciplined student and dedicated to learning. “I’m truly proud to have been his sister,” she shared. “He wasn’t interested in being the first Black astronaut. He was only interested in being given the opportunity to do what he wanted to do. I’m sorry he wasn’t here a little longer, but I think his job was one that was well done.”
The Chicago Crusader is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at http://www.nnpa.org.
By Cash Michaels (The Wilmington Journal/NNPA Member)
Rev. William Barber II
In an exclusive interview with The Wilmington Journal, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, the president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonpartisan, nonprofit social advocacy group, has confirmed that he and a delegation of “moral, workers’ rights, anti-poverty and ecological justice advocates…” will be meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thanksgiving Day.
Dr. Barber, who was consecrated as a bishop over the summer, received the invitation from the Vatican last September, along with invitations to visit England and Africa to join other labor and workers’ rights advocates.
“[The Pope] wants to bless this movement and meet with other activists from around the world who are fighting against poverty,” Dr. Barber said.
Dr. Barber, who officially stepped down from his post as the president of North Carolina’s branch of the NAACP in October after serving 12 years, will be part of a two-day conference attended by social justice advocates from countries like Canada, Senegal, Italy, Ireland, Tunisia, Ghana, Brazil, and the United States, among others.
It’s no doubt that Dr. Barber’s involvement in the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign caught the attention of, not only national, but international, social justice leadership, like Pope Francis, who is world renowned for his personal and official advocacy for the poor.
Just last Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, celebrated a special mass for poor people on the first World Day of the Poor, eating with 1500 from Italy, Poland and France.
The pope also denounced those who express indifference to the plight of the poor, calling such behavior “a great sin.”
“It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil, but do nothing about it,” Pope Francis said. “God will not ask us, if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.”
According to the group’s website, Repairers of the Breach, “…seeks to build a moral agenda rooted in the framework that uplifts our deepest moral and constitutional values to redeem the heart and soul of our country. Our deepest moral traditions point to equal protection under the law, the desire for peace within and among nations, the dignity of all people, and the responsibility to care for our common home.”
The Wilmington Journal is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the nation’s largest trade association of African American-owned newspapers and media companies, issued an urgent call and demand that President Barack H. Obama and U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch appoint a Special Federal Prosecutor in the wake of the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The NNPA also expresses sincere condolences to the families of the police officers who were unjustly killed in Dallas, Texas.
“The killings of African Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota during the past week represent an escalating national pattern of fatal police killings that appear to be racially motivated. These incidents are not isolated local tragedies, but are the terrible growing manifestations of a deadly national system of racism in the criminal justice system that needs to be effectively challenged and changed,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA. “There are, today, too many African American families and communities that continue to endure police brutality and violence across the United States. This is a national crisis that demands immediate federal intervention to both investigate and to prosecute police officers, who continue to commit these wanton racially motivated killings.”
Chavis continued: “We, therefore, demand that a Special Federal Prosecutor be immediately appointed by the United States Department of Justice. To date, unfortunately, local investigations and prosecutions have been ineffective and have not insured equal justice. The Special Federal Prosecutor has to be independent and impartial. We have heard from many of our NNPA member publishers throughout the nation who all expressed profound disgust and moral outrage about these brutalities. We will not be silent in the face of these continued injustices. We demand action by the federal government now.”
The reform of the criminal justice system in America requires more intellectual honesty in the national dialogue about race, inequality and injustice. The NNPA will engage and participate in this dialogue as the movement for reform and social change unfolds.
The NNPA represents 209 African American owned newspapers based in 32 states and known as the “Voice of Black America” that reaches 20.l million readers per week with national offices located in Washington, D.C. Please visit http://www.NNPA.org to learn more about the NNPA and go to http://www.BlackPressUSA.com to check out news and commentary about the Black community.