Michigan candidate raises eyebrows with comment

MARYSVILLE, Mich. — A city council candidate shocked a public forum when she said she wants to keep her Michigan community white “as much as possible.”

Jean Cramer made the comment Thursday in response to a question about diversity in Marysville, a city about 55 miles northeast of Detroit. The Times Herald in Port Huron reports she is among five candidates running for three council seats in November.

More than 90% of Marysville’s 9,700-person population is white.

Cramer responded when the moderator asked candidates if Marysville should do more to attract foreign-born residents, who are boosting populations in some Great Lakes states.

“Keep Marysville a white community as much as possible,” she replied. “White. Seriously. In other words, no foreign-born, no foreign people.”

The newspaper later asked Cramer if she wanted to clarify her remarks.

“Husband and wife need to be the same race. Same thing with kids,” she said. “That’s how it’s been from the beginning of, how can I say, when God created the heaven and the earth. He created Adam and Eve at the same time. But as far as me being against blacks, no I’m not.”

Other candidates at the forum were deeply troubled. Mike Deising said: “Just checking the calendar here and making sure it’s still 2019.”

— The Associated Press

Trump Tower may end up on Obama Avenue in N.Y.

NEW YORK — More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition to rename a block of a Manhattan Avenue after former President Barack Obama – a block that just so happens to be the home of Trump Tower.

The MoveOn.org petition is asking Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to make the change for a section of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets, renaming it President Barack H. Obama Avenue.

If this were to happen, any building addresses along that block “should be changed accordingly,” the petition says, which would change Trump Tower’s address to 725 President Barack H. Obama Ave.

The MoveOn.org petition has garnered 101,264 digital signatures as of last week, surpassing its initial target and making its way to its new goal of 125,000.

Elizabeth Rowin, who started the petition, told Newsweek, “I honestly started it as a joke.” However, she’s since heard from “several” City Council members who showed support for the idea.

There’s just one little problem; to rename a street in New York City after a person, they must be dead.

“I am sure the conditions can be changed,” Rowin told Newsweek. “there are two streets in LA named after former President Obama. These laws are arbitrary and can be worked around,” she said.

— The New York Amsterdam News

N.Y. man arrested over sham immigration practice

NEW YORK — Arleigh Louison, a Grenadian national and New York resident, is accused of orchestrating a sham immigration practice in an office building in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.

Federal law enforcement agents arrested Louison last month, and he has been indicted in Vermont on 12 counts of making false statements and submitting over 1,800 fraudulent immigration applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Kathy (name changed for privacy), who is from Trinidad and Tobago, said Louison’s illegal immigration law practice contributed to her becoming an undocumented immigrant since 2016, she told The Caribbean American Weekly.

— The New York Amsterdam News

Milwaukee musicians play requiems at crime scenes

MILWAUKEE — There’s a new kind of first responder to some crime scenes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: musicians.

Toting their violin, viola and bass cases, they set up among the investigating police and reporters scrambling to get the story after a shooting. And soon the mournful sound of a spiritual, like “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” fills the night.

The Black String Triage Ensemble, with seven members ranging in age from 11 to 70-something, has played at more than a dozen crime scenes this summer, according to CNN affiliate WISN.

Dayvin Hallmon founded the volunteer group of string musicians this year. The group, made up of African-Americans and Latinos, aims to be a “healing force” for communities coping with violence, he said.

Hallmon says he plays seven instruments and has been a church musician since he was about 9. He said he began getting the idea for the group during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The group plays on certain weekends that Hallmon set aside for the group to be on call. Volunteers have to be ready to respond during the on-call weekends, as well attend practice dates.

The group plays a set that goes through five stages of grief: a spiritual for denial; classical music for anger; jazz for bargaining; then blues and soul music for depression and acceptance. All the music is by African-American composers, including Duke Ellington and Curtis Mayfield.

The first time the group played after a shooting, Hallmon said, a woman came out in her bathrobe as they were packing up to leave. She introduced herself as the mother of the person who had been shot.

“I will sleep better tonight knowing you are here,” she said, according to Hallmon.


GOP lawmaker wants stiffer stand against racism

CALIFORNIA — Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes doesn’t think the California Republican Party is doing enough to denounce racism and white nationalism, especially in the wake of two mass shootings and President Donald Trump’s tweets against four young congresswomen of color.

“This is beyond unacceptable, it is wrong and abhorrent,’’ he recently wrote on Twitter following Trump’s tweets. “Dear Fellow Republicans, we must speak out and return ourselves to decency. This cannot be who we are!”

Following the shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead Mayes announced that he will propose a formal resolution at the party’s next state convention this fall.

The suspected shooter in El Paso is believed to have written an anti-immigrant manifesto about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Many have likened the shooter’s words to some of Trump’s language about immigrants and Mayes’ tweet was taken as an indirect push against Trump.

“Republicans must reject racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and white supremacy. The belief that one group of people is superior to another is fundamentally un-American,” Mayes wrote.

It is likely Mayes will face opposition from his fellow delegates as he has received criticism from within his party in the past. In 2017 he was ousted as Assembly GOP leader after supporting extending the state’s cap-and-trade emissions program.

— L.A. Focus

Social justice advocate wins district attorney race

MISSISSIPPI — In a three-person race that became personal, brutal and sometimes exhausting, Jody Owens, former managing attorney at the Mississippi office of the Southern Poverty Law Center, was elected as the next district attorney for Hinds County with a pledge to fix a broken criminal justice system.

Owens defeated Jackson defense attorney Darla Palmer and veteran prosecutor Stanley Alexander in last week’s Democratic primary. No independent or Republican entered the race.

Owens, who will replace Robert Shuler Smith, received 53% of the votes compared with 33% for Palmer and 14% for Alexander.

Smith did not seek re-election and ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Democrat.

— The Mississippi Link

Alcorn State grad leads Mississippi Bar Foundation

MISSISSIPPI — A distinguished attorney and community leader for decades, La’Verne Edney will serve as the new president of the Mississippi Bar Foundation, which has awarded more than $12 million to law-related, public interest projects since 1984.

A 1996 graduate of the Mississippi College School of Law, Edney brings significant trial experience in state and federal courts. The 1988 Alcorn State University graduate has more than 22 years of litigation experience. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the Mississippi Bar in 2012 and was named Lawyer of the Year by the law school in 2018.

Edney is a member of Butler Snow’s litigation department. She practices with its Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Healthcare Litigation Group in Jackson, Mississippi.

Her tenure as president of the Jackson-based foundation began Aug. 1.

— Mississippi Link

N.C. district shifts phase for ‘achievement gap’

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — To erase the educational achievement gap between white and Black students in Asheville City Schools, Lauren Evans says the phrase “achievement gap” itself needs to be more scrutinized.

Echoing a nationwide trend, Evans, who will begin her second year leading Asheville Primary School when students return on Aug. 19, instructs her staff to use “opportunity gap” instead of “achievement gap” — historically the more common phrase — when broadly discussing academic differences between groups of students.

It is a language shift picked up by Asheville City Schools administrators, who over the past year have increasingly substituted “opportunity” in place of “achievement” in public meetings.

“Opportunity gap” stressed a need for more equity in all societal sectors: health care, transportation, outdoor recreation and even the private sector.

“’Achievement gap’ unfairly puts the onus on the students,” Evans said. “’Opportunity gap’ is a more intricate understanding that learning is the result of an entire system.”

— The Associated Press

School district ends misuse of funds for student snacks

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Indianapolis Public Schools students are losing regular snacks of fresh fruit and vegetables after the district learned it had misused federal money.

IPS spent about $600,000 last year on produce for more than 10,000 students. But The Indianapolis Star reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had said the district was misusing funds intended to reimburse school districts for free breakfasts and lunches.

IPS used that money to supplement a federal program designed to give the poorest students regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

IPS spokeswoman Carrie Cline Black says district officials didn’t know “that USDA is very specific about how you spend those funds.” She said the snack program was ended at a dozen elementary schools and four middle schools once the district learned of the problem this summer.

— The Associated Press

S.C. city gives $1M to new Black history museum

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — North Charleston is giving $1 million to a new African-American history museum in South Carolina and is asking the museum to include the city’s story.

The North Charleston City Council voted unanimously Thursday to give the money from the city’s taxes on hotels to the International African American Museum being built in Charleston.

Mayor Keith Summey says he hopes the money helps tell the story of North Charleston’s predecessor Liberty Hill, where a Black couple bought farmland during the Civil War that was later sold to other African Americans.

North Charleston’s history also includes racial struggles . The city paid a $6.5 million settlement to the family of a Black man, Walter Scott, who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer in 2015.

— The Associated Press

Hispanic journalist group returns Fox News money

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest Hispanic journalist group is rescinding Fox News’ sponsorship of its upcoming annual conference in Texas and returning nearly $17,000 to the network in response to a radio host’s comments about Latino immigrants.

Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the group acted because Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes had repeatedly used prejudicial language toward immigrants.

“It is important that news organizations do not use or give a platform to slanted jargon disguised as opinion that misconstrues the facts,” said Balta, who works at Fox News rival MSNBC.

Marsheila Hayes, the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Fox News, said the decision was unfortunate.

NAHJ is co-sponsoring the Excellence in Journalism Conference with the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists next month in San Antonio.

— The Associated Press

Group sues to access police bodycam video of shooting

NEW YORK — A civil rights advocacy group is suing the New York Police Department for bodycam footage.

The New York Lawyers for Public Interest filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for access to footage of the fatal shooting of Susan Muller.

Officers shot and killed Muller, 54, on Sept. 17, 2018, after she called 911 to report a burglary in her Queens home. Fifty seconds after entering the home, the police shot Muller, who was mentally unstable and wasn’t able to fill her antidepressant prescription at the time and had used alcohol. NYPD officials claimed that Muller approached one officer with a knife in her hand.

Despite the police wearing body cams at the time, no video or audio footage of the incident has been released to the public.

Following public reports of the Muller shooting, NYLPI made a Freedom Of Information Law request for the unedited audio and video files from all of the body-worn cams of every officer involved in the incident. NYLPI also requested unedited audio files from Muller’s 911 calls that day.

The NYPD denied NYLPI’s FOIL request, refusing to provide redacted portions of audio and video files on the basis of asserted FOIL exemptions.

— The New York Amsterdam News

N.J. observance marks 1831 Nat Turner rebellion

NEWARK, N.J. — The ninth annual Nat Turner Slave Rebellion Observance took place on recently at Nat Turner Park in New Jersey. The event commemorates the anniversary of the slave rebellion that Turner led in 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia, where enslaved Africans killed 55 to 65 people.

The event was sponsored by the People’s Organization For Progress and the Friends Of Nat Turner Park as Aug. 21 marked the 188th anniversary of the upraising.

This year’s observation also coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Aug. 20, 1619, arrival of the first African slaves to what is now Jamestown, Virginia.

New Jersey is the only state in the country with a legal mandate to infuse its public schools curriculum with African-American history. The Amistad Commission was created for that purpose.

— The New York Amsterdam News

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