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Philadelphia Tribune honors city’s most influential African Americans

The Philadelphia Tribune honored prominent Philadelphians in education, business, health and community and religious organizations Thursday during its annual Most Influential African American event.

The event, which was held virtually for the third year in a row due to the pandemic, was emceed by NBC 10’s weekday morning anchor Erin Coleman and the pastor of Salem Baptist Church, the Rev. Marshall Mitchell.

“We’re recognizing individuals who have the power to initiate change in our community,” Mitchell said. “These distinguished individuals hail from a multitude of career disciplines and possess the qualities necessary to make progressive change in Philly and move their communities forward.

“Their success exemplifies a tireless work ethic and determination that should inspire us all,” he added.

During the event, the Tribune honored “10 under 40,” “Movers and Shakers,” “African American Leaders” and “Most Influential.”

“Great leaders come from all walks of life. Seldom do they follow some predetermined path to leadership,” said Robert W. Bogle, president/CEO of The Philadelphia Tribune.

“Most successful leaders overcome obstacles and failures along the way, but their determination is well defined by their leadership ability,” Bogle said. “We’re pleased and proud to once again present Philadelphia’s Most Influential African Americans.”

Among the honorees in the “10 Under 40” included Akayla Brown, founder of the nonprofit Dimplez 4 Dayz Inc.; Katharine Davis, 15th president of Central High School; Katrina Gilbert, wedding planning expert and owner of Petite Féte Philadelphia; Rasheeda Gray, owner and founder of Gray Space Interior Design; Terril Haigler also known as Ya Fav Trashman, community activist; Tamir Harper, founder of the education nonprofit UrbEd; Krystal Jones, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Live! Casino and Hotel; Raheem Manning, nighttime economy director for the City of Philadelphia; Ryan Tucker, deputy executive director of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.; and Adrienne Whaley, director of education and community engagement for the Museum of the American Revolution.

“These individuals have made a big impact in their chosen careers and communities,” Coleman said of the 10 Under 40 honorees. “They’re not only impressive, but we will be hearing more about them in the not so distant future.”

Among the event sponsors were: Independence Blue Cross, Comcast, PECO, PNC Bank, WSFS Bank, Jefferson Health and Temple University.

“For 138 years, the Tribune has been the voice for African American communities in Philadelphia,” said Loren Hudson, senior vice president and chief diversity Officer for Comcast Cable.

“Telling stories that would have gone untold, bringing light to issues that would have stayed hidden and rejoicing in the beauty of the African American communities in Philly,” Hudson said.

“We continue to be inspired by partners like The Philadelphia Tribune, who are helping to showcase the breadth of Black culture and acknowledge the contributions of those being recognized today,” she added.

Independence Health Group president and CEO Gregory E. Deavens discussed a shared value and interest that both organizations have in the African American community.

“At Independence Blue Cross, we listen every day as we strive to make good on our commitment to advance health equity, and eliminate the disparities in health that too often affect communities of color,” Deavens said.

“The Philadelphia Tribune is an invaluable part of that effort through our community health public awareness campaign. The Tribune is helping Black Philadelphians understand and fight back against the chronic health conditions that disproportionately affect us,” he added.

Deavens, who is also one of the honorees for Most Influential, said he was grateful to be recognized by the oldest continuously published African-American newspaper in the country.

“I came to Philadelphia just over five years ago and one of the joys of that transition for me and my wife Beverly has been connecting to this incredible African American community,” Deavens said.

“I want to congratulate the impressive roster of Most Influential honorees for 2022,” he added. “I’m humbled to be recognized as part of the list and I’m proud of the impact we all have on this great city and region.”

City Council has first in-person meeting in 2 years

Philadelphia City Council on Thursday continued transferring large chunks of properties for use as affordable housing in its first in-person meeting in more than two years.

“I think in total we have about 400 parcels of land that we have now started the process of moving towards the development of the Homeowner’s Turn the Key Initiative,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke. There are plans to make 1,000 homes available next year, he said.

The members’ desks were further apart and they used wireless microphones at the stations. In addition, seating was restricted to every other seat in the public gallery, based on recommendations from city health professionals. About 40 people were in the gallery, but some of them were city staffers.

“Right now we’re back. We sought advice from the Department of Health in a couple of briefings with the commissioner,” Clarke said. “We think it went well. As you can see today, having people come in, I think people were excited. Council members were excited to be in the room. They had interaction on a personal level, face to face.”

With the public Council meeting, Philadelphia became the last of the top 10 biggest city government body to do so.

“The virtual nature of what we have been doing had been working,” Clarke said. “We had a significant level of participation but it was virtual.”

There were several resolutions passed honoring the lives of Philadelphia residents Rakim Hasheem Allen, known by his stage name of PnB Rock, a hip-hop artist who was recently killed by gun violence in Los Angeles; and Michael Hinson Jr., an LGBTQ rights activist, who also advocated for more funding and services for people suffering from homelessness and HIV, who recently died.

Councilmember Cindy Bass, said PnB Rock of Germantown, was an inspiration to many young people and a symbol of the many young Black men dying by gun violence. Council also passed resolutions recognizing Police Officers Taylor Sidler and Paul Watson for their heroic actions after a shooting at Shepard Recreation Center in August. Council also honored Quinta Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph, wife of state Sen. Vincent Hughes for their Emmy wins for their hit television series Abbott Elementary.

In other Council news, there were some leadership changes and committee appointments to fill the positions help by the resignations of council members Derek Green, Allan Domb, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez.

All but Domb have announced that they are running for mayor, to replace Jim Kenney, who has served two terms and is prohibited by law run for third consecutive term.

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., whose 4th District includes parts of West Philadelphia, Manyayunk and Roxborough, was voted the new majority leader, a position that was held by Parker.

Mark Squilla, who represents the 1st district, which includes parts center city and south Philadelphia, was voted majority whip replacing Jones. Cindy Bass, who 8th District represents parts of North Philadelphia and Germantown, was voted deputy whip, replacing Squilla.

On Thursday, Clarke also announced several new committee appointments: Jones is now chair of the Appropriations Committee, which was held by Sánchez. Squilla is the new chair of the finance committee, replacing Green. At-Large Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, former teacher is new chair of the Education Committee, replacing Sanchez. At-Large Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson is chair of the Law and Government Committee, replacing Parker. Mike Driscoll, who represents the 6th District, which includes parts of the Northeast, such as Frankford, Port Richmond, Rhawnhurst and Tacony, is the new chair of Licenses and Inspections Committee.

Meanwhile a panel of party leaders of Democratic City Committee has selected Sharon Vaughn, who served as chief of staff for Councilmember Green; and Jimmy Harrity, who worked for state Sen. Shariff Street for positions on the Nov. 8 ballot, to replace Green and Domb, who both were at-large or citywide Council members.

Democratic ward leaders were scheduled to vote on the pair Thursday evening after Philadelphia Tribune presstime.

Black Clergy of Philadelphia comes out in support of DA Krasner

Supporters of Philadelphia’s district attorney say that they believe some Pennsylvania state legislators are attempting to strip citizens of their votes.

The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, alongside members of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and other nonprofit organization leaders, held a news conference in support of District Attorney Larry Krasner following efforts to impeach him and the decision by state legislators to hold Krasner in contempt for allegedly violating a subpoena.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, City Commissioner Omar Sabir and other community activists were on hand for the news conference.

Throughout the news conference, discussed the effort to impeach Krasner, calling it a political stunt by some state legislators who could disenfranchise Philadelphia voters.

“If we allow something like this to happen now ... we are saying that our votes mean nothing and that our voice means nothing, said Catherine Hicks, president of Philadelphia’s NAACP branch. “It is our right to choose who represents our communities and we cannot allow anyone to take that away from us.”

“This is directly connected to a historical legacy of people trying to take the votes of Black people right out of our hands,” said the Rev. Mark Kelly Taylor, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E Church. “If we sit back silently and Larry Krasner is impeached successfully no elected official within the city of Philadelphia is safe in the future.”

“We have an obligation to protect our future and the votes of every future Philadelphian,” he said.

Kenyatta questioned state legislators’ sincerity in their attempt to solve Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis.

“Every single action that they have taken has been an impediment to us doubling down on strategies that actually reduce gun violence,” said Kenyatta. “So, I can’t really trust that they’re trying to impeach Larry Krasner because they care about what is happening here in the city of Philadelphia.”

Hughes highlighted the hypocrisy he said he believes legislators are showing in their oversight of Philadelphia.

“It is striking ... to attempt to go after our district attorney who has not been charged with any crime and to ignore a DA who has been disbarred,” said Hughes. “All we are doing here is pointing out an obvious fact that our district attorney within the city of Philadelphia is being gone after when he has not been charged with any crime, while the district attorney in Somerset has been charged with numerous crimes and is being bypassed.”

The effort to impeach Krasner began back in July with legislators forming the Select Committee to Restore Law and Order to investigate the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.

The committee is hosting hearings next Thursday and Friday at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to decide if they should recommend impeachment to the state House.

According to a release from the district attorney’s office, Krasner has requested that the hearings be made accessible to Philadelphians and that he be invited to testify on his own behalf.

Jason Gottesman, a House Republican Caucus spokesperson, responded to Krasner’s request in a statement sent to The Philadelphia Tribune that reads:

“Next week’s public hearings are investigative hearings being held by the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. The District Attorney will not dictate the procedures taken by a House Committee in the midst of an investigation. It is shocking that someone who refused to comply with a duly-issued subpoena and challenged the validity of the Select Committee in court is now trying to control the process by which that Committee operates.

“The hearings have been noticed pursuant to the Sunshine Act, facilities at the Navy Yard have been secured, and testifiers have been scheduled. If in the course of its investigation the Select Committee finds it appropriate, the District Attorney may be offered the opportunity to appear under oath and answer questions relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation.”

Trump's legal woes mount without protection of presidency

WASHINGTON — Stark repudiation by federal judges he appointed. Far-reaching fraud allegations by New York Attorney General Letitia James. It’s been a week of widening legal troubles for Donald Trump, laying bare the challenges piling up as the former president operates without the protections afforded by the White House.

The bravado that served him well in the political arena is less handy in a legal realm dominated by verifiable evidence, where judges this week have looked askance at his claims and where a fraud investigation that took root when Trump was still president burst into public view in an allegation-filled 222-page state lawsuit.

In politics, “you can say what you want and if people like it, it works. In a legal realm, it’s different,” said Chris Edelson, a presidential powers scholar and American University government professor. “It’s an arena where there are tangible consequences for missteps, misdeeds, false statements in a way that doesn’t apply in politics.”

That distinction between politics and law was evident in a single 30-hour period this week.

Trump insisted on Fox News in an interview that aired Wednesday that the highly classified government records he had at Mar-a-Lago actually had been declassified, that a president has the power to declassify information “even by thinking about it.”

A day earlier, however, an independent arbiter his own lawyers had recommended appeared perplexed when the Trump team declined to present any information to support his claims that the documents had been declassified. The special master, Raymond Dearie, a veteran federal judge, said Trump’s team was trying to “have its cake and eat it” too, and that, absent information to back up the claims, he was inclined to regard the records the way the government does: Classified.

On Wednesday morning, Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, accused Trump in a lawsuit of padding his net worth by billions of dollars and habitually misleading banks about the value of prized assets. The lawsuit, the culmination of a three-year investigation that began when he was president, also names as defendants three of his adult children and seeks to bar them from ever again running a company in the state. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Hours later, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit — two of them Trump appointees — handed him a startling loss in the Mar-a-Lago investigation.

The court overwhelmingly rejected arguments that he was entitled to have the special master do an independent review of the roughly 100 classified documents taken during last month’s FBI search, and said it was not clear why Trump should have an “interest in or need for” those records.

That ruling opened the way for the Justice Department to resume its use of the classified records in its probe. It lifted a hold placed by a lower court judge, Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee whose rulings in the Mar-a-Lago matter had to date been the sole bright spot for the former president. On Thursday, she responded by striking the parts of her order that had required the Justice Department to give Dearie, and Trump’s lawyers, access to the classified records.

Dearie followed up with his own order, giving the Justice Department until Sept. 26 to submit an affidavit asserting that the FBI’s detailed inventory of items taken in the search is accurate. Trump’s team will have until Sept. 30 to identity errors or mistakes in the inventory.

Between Dearie’s position, and the appeals court ruling, “I think that basically there may be a developing consensus, if not an already developed consensus, that the government has the stronger position in a lot of these issues and a lot of these controversies,” said Richard Serafini, a Florida criminal defense lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor.

To be sure, Trump is hardly a stranger to courtroom dramas, having been deposed in numerous lawsuits throughout his decades-long business career, and he has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to survive situations that seemed dire.

His lawyers did not immediately respond Thursday to a request seeking comment.

In the White House, Trump faced a perilous investigation into whether he had obstructed a Justice Department probe of possible collusion between Russia and his 2016 campaign. Ultimately, he was protected at least in part by the power of the presidency, with special counsel Robert Mueller citing longstanding department policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.

He was twice impeached by a Democratic-led House of Representatives — once over a phone call with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the second time over the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol — but was acquitted by the Senate on both occasions thanks to political support from fellow Republicans.

It remains unclear if any of the current investigations — the Mar-a-Lago one or probes related to Jan. 6 or Georgia election interference — will produce criminal charges. And the New York lawsuit is a civil matter.

But there’s no question Trump no longer enjoys the legal shield of the presidency, even though he has repeatedly leaned on an expansive view of executive power to defend his retention of records the government says are not his, no matter their classification.

Notably, the Justice Department and the federal appeals court have paid little heed to his assertions that the records had been declassified. For all his claims on TV and social media, both have noted that Trump has presented no information to support the idea that he took any steps to declassify the records.

The appeals court called the declassification question a “red herring” because even declassifying a record would not change its content or transform it from a government document into a personal one. And the statutes the Justice Department cites as the basis of its investigation do not explicitly mention classified information.

Trump’s lawyers also have stopped short of saying in court, or in legal briefs, that the records were declassified. They told Dearie they shouldn’t be forced to disclose their stance on that issue now because it could be part of their defense in the event of an indictment.

Even some legal experts who have otherwise sided with Trump in his legal fights are dubious of his assertions.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who testified as a Republican witness in the first impeachment proceedings in 2019, said he was struck by the “lack of a coherent and consistent position from the former president on the classified documents.”

“It’s not clear,” he added, “what Jedi-like lawyers said that you could declassify things with a thought, but the courts are unlikely to embrace that claim.”