Newswire : Out of the shadows: overt racism flourishes in the American South in the Trump era

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

unitetherightrally_acrider_wc_web120.jpg
 UNITE THE RIGHT RALLY  l to r : members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags in Charlottesville, Va. (Anthony Crider/Wikimedia Commons)
Race relations in the United States, especially in the South, are plagued by troubling examples of the challenges that face the nation, as Americans work toward achieving the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of, more than 50 years ago.
Forty-two percent of Americans said that they personally worry a “great deal” about race relations in the United States, up seven percentage points from 2016 and a record high in the Gallup’s 17-year trend, according to Gallup News.
The Gallup poll marked the third straight year that worries about race relations have increased by a significant margin, a surge that experts have said likely stems from the racial tensions and public discourse sparked by high-profile incidents of police shooting unarmed Black people. These high-profile incidents, often sensationalized by mainstream media, overshadow the more pervasive forms of racism that exist in local politics, businesses and schools.
A longtime prominent Florence, S.C. school board member abruptly resigned when it was made public that he sent an email in which he described Black members as “darkies.” In part of the missive, Glenn Odom noted that he “didn’t want the Darkies” to know about the information—a reference to the African-American board members. He has now apologized.
“I guess I’m the head ‘darkie,’” school board member Alexis Pipkins, Sr., told the NNPA Newswire. “I didn’t find out about [the email] until September and there was a board meeting on September 14 and they didn’t notify us.”Pipkins continued: “So, if any of them say they’re shaken up by this, they weren’t shaken up enough to inform all of the board members. If this isn’t racism, my question would be, ‘then, what is?’”
Board Superintendent Barry Townsend struggled with explaining Odom’s actions. “I thought the biggest issues we’d have to deal with on the school board is education and taxes,” Townsend said.
Florence City Manager Drew Griffin said he learned about Odom’s email just hours before he was contacted for comment. “Certainly, the contents and language contained within the email are inconsistent with my personal beliefs as well as the mission and core value statements adopted by the city,” Griffin said.
Surprisingly, the local NAACP President Madie Robinson said the issue is strictly a school board matter and she declined further comment.
Odom, a school board member Florence (District 1) for 25 years and whose term wasn’t set to end until 2020, was among those who fought against a U.S. Justice Department order earlier this year to make sure its schools are more racially balanced.
In Conway, S.C., the FBI arrested a White restaurant manager for enslaving and torturing a Black worker for five years, calling him the “n-word” and paying him less than $3,000 a year while working him daily with very few, if any, days off, according to the local FOX-affiliated.
Restaurant owner Bobby Paul Edwards has been indicted on a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison for enslaving a Black employee. Christopher Smith had worked for 23 years at Edwards’ J&J Cafeteria as a buffet cook. Prosecutors said Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to compel Smith to work.
Smith, who reportedly has a mental disability, would work 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said. Smith was hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles and fists “while being called the n-word repeatedly,” the lawyers alleged, according to The Post and Courier.
In Hope Mills N.C., a massive Ku Klux Klan recruitment effort found its way into a high school, demanding that Whites join to “take back the country.” The Loyal White Knights of the KKK left flyers on the windshields of cars parked outside of Gray’s Creek High School. The flyer urged participation by Whites and railed against the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces; the group called the removal of the statues an attack on “White History, the White Race and America itself.”
In Louisiana, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator vehemently objected to the planned release of Black state prisoners, who he said could continue to work on washing cars for the warden and other officials. “In addition to the bad ones—and I call these bad—in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money,” Prator protested at a news conference. “Well, they’re going to let them out.”
And, then there was the exchange between a Black female student at Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas, and a White student, according to a local ABC-affiliate. “U liberals dumb as hell,” the boy posted on Snapchat, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Not as dumb as you racist,” the girl responded. “I’m standing up for my country,” the boy said on Snapchat. “We should have hung all u [n-words] while we had the chance and trust me, it would make the world better.”
Myrlie Evers, a civil rights activist and the widow of Medgar Evers, who was murdered by a White supremacist in 1963, said that she was in a state of despair, hurt and anger, according to the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss. “I’m 84 years of age, and I’m thankful for my life,” she told the Clarion-Ledger. “In my prayers, I ask, ‘God, is it ever over? Must we continue to go through this horrible nightmare of prejudice, racism and hatred all over again?’ ”
Evers continued: “If we don’t step forward,” she said, “we have no one to blame but ourselves for what the end may be.”

 

NAACP National Board makes dramatic move to regain relevance

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

cornellbrooks_3794_fallen_web120.jpgCornell Brooks of the NAACP

Why did the NAACP’s national board vote to part ways with their president, Cornell William Brooks? Several longtime members contacted by the NNPA Newswire were shocked to hear the news. Brooks, 56, has served in the position since May 2014. Some NAACP insiders said that there was a lack of communication between the NAACP’s large board of directors and Brooks. Others say that a lack of fundraising prowess was the reason.
On the day the board voted to end Brooks’ tenure as president (his current contract expires on June 30), NAACP Board Chairman Leon Russell announced that the 108 year-old organization is “re-tooling” and embarking on “an organization-wide refresh” in response to the “audacious challenges” in “today’s volatile political, media and social climates.”
During an interview with American Urban Radio Networks, Brooks was asked why he was being let go. He responded: “I can’t point to any substantive reason. What I can point to is this: the NAACP over the course of less than three years, is more visible, more vocal, growing in members, donors, presence in the courts and in communities across the country.”
Brooks continued: “We’ve had nine court victories against voter suppression in ten months. We not only demonstrated in Flint, we filed suit in Flint…online membership is up 87 percent and online paper membership is up seven percent. Online donations are up 800 percent,” Brooks added. On May 21, Brooks was bombarded on Twitter with positive praise from well-wishers for his three years as NAACP President.
Brooks was also instrumental in spotlighting the damage President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions will likely do to voting rights with a demonstration in Alabama that resulted in Brooks’ highly publicized arrest.
During a May 19 media call on the end of Brooks’ presidency, NAACP National Board Chairman Leon Russell and Vice Chair Derrick Johnson told reporters that the search for a new leader will start immediately and focus on, “renewed nimbleness and vigilance so that we can aggressively respond to the current climate of political unrest as well as the assault on human rights.”
Russell also added that, “we don’t have a job description in front of us.”
Russell said that there would be a, “system-wide and strategic revisiting of processes…that will ensure the NAACP can address these 21st century challenges.”
Russell also said that he and Johnson would manage the day-to-day NAACP operations on an interim basis until a replacement for Brooks is found. They also announced a NAACP “listening tour” in an effort to be informed “by the people we serve” and to “harness grassroots energy” while at the same time listening also to current staff, past leaders in the Civil Rights Movement and “philanthropic” groups.
The NAACP makes this startling leadership change at an incredibly crucial time. President Donald Trump is reeling amidst accusations of collusion with the Russian government, during the 2016 election season and obstruction of justice involving former FBI Director Jim Comey’s investigation of it. Attorney General Sessions easily represents one of the biggest threats to policy issues disproportionately impacting African Americans.
But the NAACP has clearly taken a back seat in terms of national attention. Younger, tighter and more focused movements such as Black Lives Matter, Color of Change and now The Indivisible Movement have leveraged social media and narrowed priorities to push there agendas as the NAACP has remained in a traditionalist managerial model that would appear ill-suited for the times.
The vote by the 64-member NAACP national board to part ways with Brooks took place during a quarterly board meeting in Florida and on the same day that Dr. Rev. William Barber stepped down as NAACP North Carolina State President. Barber has led the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and won political and public relations attention as a result. He is now focused on a diverse “poor people’s campaign” modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King’s own work.

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.

NNPA exclusive: Bill Cosby finally breaks his silence

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

billcosby_bcosby_web120.jpg

 Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby is blind. It’s been more than two years since the embattled, television and film legend, who was once known as “America’s Dad,” has spoken out publicly. During a recent interview with the NNPA Newswire, Cosby revealed that he’s lost his sight.
Waking one morning about two years ago, he nervously called out to Camille, his wife. “I can’t see,” he said. Doctors later confirmed the worst: that there was nothing that could be done to repair his vision.
“When he would perform, we’d draw a wide straight yellow line from backstage to the chair on the stage and he’d rehearse the walk, hours before the show,” said Andrew Wyatt of the Purpose PR firm, a public relations agency in Birmingham, Ala. Wyatt has worked with Cosby for years.
Wyatt said that his star client has decided that it’s time to talk. Together, Wyatt and Cosby said they grew comfortable that the NNPA Newswire would be more interested in “facts over sensationalism.”
Cosby has shunned most media inquiries, since allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in late 2014; some of those accusations dated back almost fifty years. In 2015, According to CNN, Cosby was charged with three counts of felony aggravated assault in a case involving Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee.
Earlier this year, CNN reported that Cosby’s, “criminal sexual assault trial will stay in Montgomery County Court in Pennsylvania, but the jurors will come from another Pennsylvania county.” In February, a federal judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Cosby by accuser Katherine McKee, according to USA Today.
“This marks the third defamation lawsuit against Cosby that was either withdrawn or dismissed recently, prompting some Cosby crowing,” USA Today reported. “However, another defamation case against him, filed by six accusers, is still pending in the same federal court in Massachusetts.”
While the beleaguered superstar declined to address any of his legal cases, his youngest daughter, Evin felt compelled to speak out. In a statement, which can be read in its entirety on BlackPressUSA.com, Evin, 40, questioned the veracity of the allegations against her father.
“The harsh and hurtful accusations…that supposedly happened 40 or 50 years ago, before I was born, in another lifetime, and that have been carelessly repeated as truth without allowing my dad to defend himself and without requiring proof, has punished not just my dad but every one of us,” Evin said.
Devin T. Robinson X, an actor and renowned poet who’s been featured on MTV, NBC, CBS and BET, said that Bill Cosby represents the finest example of someone being found guilty in the court of public opinion without ever facing trial. “Punishing people before they’re convicted in court only seems accurate when it serves a media narrative that doesn’t hurt a specific demographic,” Robinson said.
Dr. E. Faye Williams, the president and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc., agreed. “If the President of the United States can go on working in the White House after he has bragged about doing gross, sexually-explicit and abusive things to women, without their permission, then justice requires that Bill Cosby should not be punished, unless he is convicted of crimes,” said Williams.
Perhaps, the closest Cosby came to addressing his ongoing legal battles during the interview was when he opined about the true history of America. “The history about African-Americans is a history of the United States; but the true histories, not the propaganda that is standard in our nation’s history books,” Cosby said. “The great writer, James Baldwin, said, ‘If you lie about me, then you lie about yourself.’ The revolution is in the home. There is something about someone saying, ‘I didn’t know that,’ that could cause a change in that person’s thinking.”
Cosby said he thinks about his illustrious career that, at least for now, has been placed on hold because of the court cases. Few have achieved the legendary status enjoyed by Cosby. His career has spanned more than six decades and includes a host of best-selling comedy albums and books, gold and platinum records, and five Grammy Awards.
With his role in “I-Spy” in the 1960s, Cosby became the first African-American co-star in a dramatic series, breaking TV’s color barrier and winning three Emmy Awards.
After starring opposite Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier in the 1970s trilogy, “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Let’s Do It Again,” and “A Piece of the Action,” Cosby’s star soared even higher in the 1980s when he single-handedly revived the family sitcom and, some argue, saved NBC with “The Cosby Show.”
“Darn right,” he said, when asked if he missed performing. “I miss it all and I hope that day will come. I have some routines and storytelling that I am working on. Cosby continued: “I think about walking out on stage somewhere in the United States of America and sitting down in a chair and giving the performance that will be the beginning of the next chapter of my career.”

President Trump signs Executive Order on HBCU’s

 

HBCU Presidents Request $25 Billion in Aid from The White House
By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

president-trump-and-hbcu-presidents

President Trump with HBCU Presidents in Oval Office at  the White House

President Trump signed an executive order to focus more attention on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on Tuesday, February 28.

Although HBCUs comprise just three percent of higher education institutions in the U.S., “HBCUs contributed 19 percent of the nearly 9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering awarded to Blacks in 2010,” according to American Institutes for Research (AIR).

AIR also reported that “By 2010, approximately 33 percent of all Black students who earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics attended HBCUs, and HBCUs produced nearly 37 percent of all Black undergraduates who received bachelor’s degrees in the physical sciences.”

Every president since Jimmy Carter has issued an Executive Order establishing a White House Initiative on HBCUs. The order Trump signed will have a key difference: Trump’s order will move the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, previously part of the Department of Education, into the White House.

During the Obama Administration, the late Dr. George Cooper, headed the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Cooper was succeeded by Dr. Ivory Toldson, who left the post in June 2016 to lead the Quality Education for Minorities (QEM), a non-profit group in Washington, D.C.

A February 27 photo-op with President Trump in the Oval Office and group “listening session” meeting with Vice President Michael Pence with over 60 HBCU presidents was the first meeting of its kind with HBCU presidents and chancellors in at least eight years.

HBCU presidents, who are in Washington, D.C., this week, also have decided to request $25 billion from the Trump Administration to assist their schools.

At a HBCU president’s reception on Monday night, Grambling President Rick Gallot told the NNPA Newswire that the priorities of HBCUs are, “spending on campus infrastructure and an increase in year around Pell Grants.”

A senior White House Official in the Trump Administration briefed reporters on February 27 at the White House on moving the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities into the White House and assigning an executive director.

The initiative on HBCUs, “lost track, because they didn’t have the full force of the White House behind them. This HBCU order will do that by repositioning the initiative in the White House,” the senior Trump Administration official said.

The senior White House Official added that the administration wants HBCUs to serve as partners in the President’s urban agenda and that the administration also wants to increase the private sector’s role in supporting and strengthening their participation in federal programs. HBCUs did not fare well during the Obama Administration. In 2009, the Obama Administration failed to renew a two-year appropriation for HBCUs of $85 million a year. The money would later have to be restored by concerned Democrats who controlled Congress.

HBCUs collectively lost over $300 million in grants and tuition after a bureaucratic level decision in 2011 enacted in Obama’s Department of Education made obtaining Parent PLUS loans much more difficult. As a result, 28,000 HBCU students were negatively impacted.

In September 2013, President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan apologized to HBCU leaders and advocates for the Parent PLUS loan decision. In 2012, Duncan proposed an end to a three-year implementation of summer Pell Grants. The elimination of summer Pell Grants is an issue HBCU presidents often say they’d like restored. Almost two-thirds of African American undergraduate students receive Pell funding.

In 2015, President Obama proposed two years of free community college without consulting HBCU advocates. Many of those advocates viewed the proposal as a threat to HBCUs. The proposal, which was never enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress, was later changed to include HBCUs.

In early 2015, during a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, President Obama expressed what many members later told the NNPA Newswire was a lack of support for HBCUs. President Obama was critical of HBCU graduation rates and loan policies.

In February 2015, President Obama’s own HBCU Board of Advisors Chair, Hampton University President Dr. William Harvey, was critical of the Obama Administration. “We are not consulted when it comes to policy changes and decisions impacting – in a major way – the institutions on whose behalf we are to advocate,” said Harvey. “It happened with Pell. It happened with Parent PLUS. And, now it is happening with the new community college initiative.”

Regarding their visit to the White House on Monday, that included seeing President Trump and Vice President Pence, many HBCU presidents said they were happy to see HBCUs receiving attention within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, but they were cautiously optimistic.

“There was very little listening to HBCU presidents today. We were only given about two minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today,” wrote Dillard President Walter Kimbrough detailed in a column posted on Medium on the night of February 27. The HBCU presidents convened at the Library of Congress on February 28 for an all day session with members of Congress.