Measures would honor work of Blacks in Missouri

MISSOURI — The Legislative Black Caucus recently highlighted legislation its members had filed to honor and remember the work done by African American Missourians, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

State Rep. Steven Roberts spoke about the “perseverance and triumphs” of African Americans to begin the celebrations of Black History Month at a press conference at the Capitol.

“When I think about black history in this country and in this state, ‘celebrate’ is not the first word that comes to mind,” he said.

One measure would create a new state holiday in Missouri, declaring May 1 as Walthall Moore Day.

Moore, who was born on May 1, reorganized Lincoln Institute into Lincoln University and increased its funding. He was the first African American legislator in the state — a Republican from St. Louis who was first elected in 1920.

Rep. Kevin Windham pointed out that Missouri has had less than 140 Black lawmakers out of more than 7,000 state legislators in its history.

Rep. Alan Green introduced legislation to allow voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County to decide if the local zoo and museum taxing district should expand to create an African American History Museum. Another proposal would utilize an existing tax to fund an annual Juneteenth Heritage and Jazz Festival. This would be celebrated in Kansas City, St. Louis, or St. Louis County.

— St. Louis American

Trial begins in fatal stabbing on commuter train in Calif.

OAKLAND, Calif. — A trial has begun for a parolee charged with stabbing an 18-year-old woman to death on a California subway platform and wounding her sister, an attack that drew national attention.

Opening statements have started in the trial against John Lee Cowell, 29, a transient with a history of violence. He is accused of the July 2018 slaying of Nia Wilson and the attempted murder of her 26-year-old sister, Letifah Wilson.

The women are black, and Cowell is white.

The trial was delayed as authorities sought to determine Cowell’s mental competence, as defense attorney Christina Moore has said her client has severe delusions and paranoia.

Cowell was released from a maximum security facility for mentally ill convicts less than three months before he’s accused of attacking Wilson and her sister while they changed trains on a BART platform. Wilson’s sister recovered.

Prosecutors said they would seek a life sentence against Cowell and were investigating if he was motivated by racial hate when he killed Wilson.

Wilson’s death was one of several violent or fatal attacks on a platform for Bay Area Rapid Transit, the train system that connects San Francisco to the nearby cities of Berkeley and Oakland. BART officials have since announced a number of measures intended to improve safety.

— The Associated Press

Massachusetts city hires first Black fire district chief

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In a first for Springfield, the city has appointed its first African American district chief.

Tyrone Denson will oversee the personnel and equipment at Station 3 on White Street.

“It was unexpected,” said Denson who was officially made district chief on Jan. 20. “I wanted to be the best firefighter I could be and eventually it landed me in this position.”

In 1997, Denson recalled seeing an advertisement in the paper for the fire service seeking minorities to join the fire department. It was one of three careers he was interested in at the time. But he finally chose the fire service because of the opportunities it gave.

Springfield has had a fire service since Jan. 17, 1794, formed by citizens who formed a fire club and later evolved into fire department.

— The Associated Press

University to honor its first Black scholarship athlete

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama plans to honor its first African American scholarship athlete, Wendell Hudson.

Hudson’s No. 20 jersey will become the first to hang in the rafters at Coleman Coliseum. A ceremony was held at halftime of Alabama’s basketball game with Louisiana State University on Feb. 15.

Hudson’s jersey number will still be in circulation, though Alabama officials proclaimed that it will be the first to be retired.

A scholarship has also been endowed in his honor. Crimson Tide uniforms will sport patches bearing his initials for the rest of the winter and sprint sport seasons.

Hudson, now age 68, averaged 19.0 points and 12.9 rebounds during his collegiate career and was the Southeastern Conference player of the year in 1973. A second-round draft pick by the NBA’s Chicago Bulls in 1973, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

— The Associated Press

Sexual harassment lawsuit filed against NAACP in N.C.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A woman who said she repeatedly told the national NAACP that her supervisor in the North Carolina conference had sexually harassed her sued the national group and her former boss.

Jazmyne Childs is seeking at least $15 million for her emotional and mental distress that she says the civil rights organization condoned through its inaction.

In the lawsuit filed recently in Durham County, N.C., attorneys for Childs said she was sexually harassed by the Rev. Curtis Gatewood when she was the youth and college field secretary for the North Carolina State Conference NAACP in 2017.

The national NAACP knew about the harassment when it received a report from an outside investigator in October 2017 that concluded that Gatewood harassed Childs, yet took no action, the lawsuit stated.

Gatewood, 60, who was interim field director and managed the state conference NAACP staff, “suddenly resigned” in June 2017, but continued to show up at events attended by Childs, even after receiving a cease-and-desist letter in December 2017, it noted.

Childs, 27, was hired in January 2017 and resigned in August 2018 because she feared Gatewood “would continue to stalk and intimidate her,” according to the lawsuit.

— Richmond Free Press

Atlanta students again push to rename high school

ATLANTA — Students at an Atlanta high school want to rename their school because its namesake was a 19th century newspaper editor who endorsed white supremacy.

About 180 Henry W. Grady High School students submitted a petition to the school board on Feb. 3 requesting a name change for the school, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Grady was an editor and part-owner of The Atlanta Constitution. He advocated for a “New South” after the Civil War, but he also campaigned against equality for freed slaves, saying “the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever.”

Grady’s name is featured prominently on high-profile Georgia institutions such as Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and the University of Georgia’s journalism school.

The high school students cited work from a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor that said Grady worked with political leaders to push a “white supremacist” agenda in Georgia.

“We believe now is the time for our school to realize a more inclusive vision, one that can only be achieved when all students can proudly wear school apparel and shout school chants without being forced to honor a segregationist,” the petition said.

The petition suggested journalist Ida B. Wells, who crusaded against racist lynchings, and civil rights attorney Donald Lee Hollowell as potential names for the school.

This is the newest attempt by students to change the schools name. Students previously published an editorial in the school’s paper, the Southerner, requesting a name change in 2016.

— The Associated Press

Assemblywoman makes history as party boss in NYC

NEW YORK — Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte has been chosen to succeed longtime Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, becoming the first woman and first African-American woman to lead a county party in New York City.

Seddio, who served as chairman for seven years, recently retired. The former Democratic Party boss stepped down recently after months speculation. After announcing his resignation, Seddio publicly backed the Bichotte.

— New York Carib

Oklahoma city selects new police chief from ranks

TULSA, Okla. — The city recently selected Maj. Wendell Franklin as its next police chief to succeed retiring chief Chuck Jordan.

Franklin and the other three finalists all came from within the department. He has been with the police force since 1997 and currently oversees the department’s headquarters division.

Franklin will be Tulsa’s 40th police chief in taking over from Jordan at the end of the month.

— Oklahoma Eagle

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