Governor hires diversity and inclusion director

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia governor who narrowly survived a blackface scandal earlier this year appointed a new top aide Monday whose job will be to make government more inclusive.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced at a news conference that he had hired Janice Underwood as director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Her duties will include formulating a strategic plan to address unequal treatment in state government.

Underwood would have broad authority to identify and help eliminate workplace politics that “historically and systematically affect the individual of color and other under-represented groups,” the Democratic governor said.

The announcement was the latest in a long string of actions Northam has taken to improve race relations in recent months as he works to repair his image.

Underwood, a former director of diversity initiatives at Old Dominion University, said one of the things that drew her to the new job was Northam’s commitment to rebuilding trust in the wake of a scandal that nearly forced him from office.

Northam has largely rebounded since a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced in February and almost forced him from office.

— The Associated Press

Black women’s group to honor Shirley Chisholm

WASHINGTON — On Sept. 15, the National Congress of Black Women will celebrate its 35th annual brunch at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The nonprofit, which is dedicated to the educational, political, economic and cultural development of Black women, will also honor the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s election to Congress. Chisholm was one of the founding members of the organization.

“We in the National Congress of Black Women consider it an honor to tell the stories of Black women and to remember them at our events as well as in our daily activities,” said E. Faye Williams, CEO of the organization. “We are inspired by so many of them — especially Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.”

In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman to serve in Congress in representing New Yorik’s 12th congressional district. Four years later, she became the first Black woman to seek a major party’s presidential nomination in running against other Democrats. She died in 2005 at the age of 81.

— NNPA News Wire

Gentrification helps kill Black-owned funeral home

WASHINGTON — A black-owned funeral parlor in Washington, D.C., was handling up to 140 funerals per year during its peak from the 1950s through the 1980s.

The Washington Post reports the Hall Brothers Funeral Home only handled four funerals last year, the number driven low by clientele who either died or were driven out by gentrification. The parlor’s owner, 77-year-old Richard Ables, says of the neighborhood: “If we saw a white person, we’d ask, ‘What are you doing here?’ Now it’s the opposite.”

Ables sold the property housing the dying business Wednesday, nearly 80 years after it was founded by his uncles. The newspaper notes the parlor was the last of its kind along its corridor, which is now home to an increasing number of young, white professionals.

— The Associated Press

Idaho site marks earlier trek for Native Americans

NEW YORK — Scientists say they’ve found artifacts in Idaho that indicate people were living there around 16,000 years ago, providing new evidence that the first Americans entered their new home by following the Pacific coast.

The discovery also points to Japan as a possible origin or influence for the migration, said study leader Loren Davis of Oregon State University.

Other experts were split on what the findings mean and how old they are, not an unusual reaction in the contentious topic of early humans in the New World.

Davis and colleagues reported Thursday in the journal Science on their excavation of the Cooper’s Ferry site in western Idaho.

In the oldest part of the site, they found 43 flakes that had evidently been chipped off of stones in the process of making tools like those found in younger areas of the site. They also found four such flakes that had been modified to be used for a task like cutting or scraping, and pieces of bone that indicate discarded food, Davis said.

The site is between 15,280 and 16,560 years old, for an approximate age of 16,000 years, analysis indicated. It was occupied repeatedly over time, researchers said.

The traditional narrative is that the peopling of the Americas began after a migration crossed a now-submerged land bridge called Beringia that used to extend from Siberia to Alaska. The migration’s progress south from there was blocked for a while by massive ice sheets in Canada, but eventually a gap in the ice opened and people moved through this so-called “ice-free corridor.”

But in recent years, as scientists have found earlier and earlier signs of humans living in the Americas, some have argued that people had shown up before that corridor appeared. So maybe they traveled the Pacific instead, either on foot or by boat, or both.

Davis said his paper indicates people were living in Idaho long before the corridor opened, citing others’ research that says it was open by about 14,800 years ago. The best explanation, he said, is that “they came down the coast and took a left-hand turn south of the ice, and went up the Columbia River Basin.”

— The Associated Press

Local bans hinder aspiring marijuana businesses

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — About 39% of Michigan communities that approved a recreational marijuana ballot measure last year have since introduced local bans that prohibit businesses from selling pot.

Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued emergency rules in July giving local authorities six months to introduce bans before it started to accept applications for business licenses on Nov. 1. reports that 308 of the 792 cities and townships that passed Proposal 1 in November have prohibited recreational marijuana businesses.

Bruce Barcott, deputy editor of the Washington state-based marijuana news and information website Leafly, described the local bans as the “second phase of legalization.”

“Smaller municipalities tend to want the big cities to go first and offer them reassurance that the sky won’t fall, that crime rates won’t skyrocket, that teen access won’t go up,” he said.

Ten other states and the District of Columbia have legalized smoking or eating marijuana for recreational use since 2012.

— The Associated Press

Oberlin College seeks new trial over $25M payment

ELYRIA, Ohio — Oberlin College is seeking a new trial after being ordered to pay $25 million to grocery owners who accused the school of ruining their business by encouraging protests and branding them racists after a shoplifting incident involving Black students.

The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria reports Oberlin alleges a variety of legal and procedural errors, including the court not moving the trial from Lorain County and the jury awarding “excessive damages.” The college says those errors led to “wildly excessive verdicts influenced by passion and prejudice.”

The Gibsons’ lawyers oppose the retrial request, calling it “baseless.”

During a trial this summer, a jury awarded Gibson’s and its owners $44 million. A judge cut the total because of a cap on damages but added $6.5 million in attorney fees.

— The Associated Press

‘Negro Mountain’ road signs removed in Maryland

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Maryland’s Highway Administration has removed several road signs for “Negro Mountain” over concerns about racial insensitivity.

Agency spokeswoman Lora Rakowski confirmed to news outlets Sunday that four signs along Interstate 68 and U.S. Alternate Route 40 were removed in April.

Rakowski told the Cumberland Times-News the agency was working with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and community members going forward.

Historian Lynn Bowman told the newspaper the origin of the mountain’s name was unknown, but some accounts refer to it being named after a Black man who died in a battle with Native Americans. Lynchings were also said to have taken place on the mountain.

The mountain’s ridge runs 30 miles through the Allegheny range and peaks in Pennsylvania.

— The Associated Press

Driver streams chase before being fatally shoot by police

RICHFIELD, Minn. — Police near Minneapolis shot and killed a driver following a chase after he apparently emerged from his car holding a knife and refused their commands to drop it.

The chase started late Saturday night in Edina and ended in Richfield with officers shooting Brian J. Quinones, who had streamed himself live on Facebook during the chase.

Police responded after Quinones ran a red light and wouldn’t pull over, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. According to emergency dispatch audio, Quinones continued running through red lights in Richfield.

After police forced the car to stop, Quinones got out holding what appears in the video to be a large knife in his left hand. In the dispatch audio, officers can be heard yelling, “Drop the knife. Drop the knife.” Shots can then be heard before they say, “Shots fired. Shots fired.”

Quinones seemed calm and expressionless during the chase, sometimes glancing in the rearview mirror. Just before the livestream, he posted on Facebook, “So sorry.”

No officers were hurt. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and declined comment Sunday.

— The Associated Press

Law school to honor state’s first Black female lawyer

BRISTOL, R.I. — A law school in Rhode Island says it’s dedicating a classroom to the state’s first Black female lawyer on Tuesday

Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol says it will honor Dorothy Russell Crockett Bartleson, who was admitted to the bar in 1932 as the state’s seventh female lawyer.

The school says research indicates the 21-year-old was the only Black woman admitted to the state bar until the 1970s.

Crockett Bartleson died in 1955. Her daughter, Dianne Bartleson of Surprise, Arizona, will cut the ribbon for the classroom.

— The Associated Press

Officer pleads guilty to covering up attack on peer

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer has pleaded guilty to a federal crime for covering up an attack on a Black undercover officer during a 2017 protest.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Bailey Colletta entered the plea Friday, admitting that she lied to the FBI and a federal grand jury investigating the attack on officer Luther Hall.

Colletta was among four officers charged in the case . The trial for the other three — Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Myers — begins Dec. 2.

Court documents say Hall claimed he was beaten “like Rodney King” when fellow officers mistook him for a protester. The attack happened during a protest following the acquittal of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis officer who had been accused of fatally shooting a Black suspect.

— The Associated Press

Council vote squashes police review board in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — After a year of public hearings and special committee meetings, Allegheny County Council finally voted on an ordinance to create a county-wide Civilian Police Review Board — and it was defeated, 9-6, with five Democrats joining the Council’s four Republicans in voting against it.

The ordinance would have created an appointed board of civilians who would have oversight of the county police and any municipal departments that wanted to opt in. It would have reviewed incidents of alleged police misconduct and made recommendations as to discipline and/or criminal charges.

The push to create the board accelerated after the shooting death of Antwon Rose II by former East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld. Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, was in the Allegheny County Courthouse for the Aug. 27 vote and in the hallway afterwards, she told reporters it changes nothing.

Councilmembers DeWitt Walton and Paul Klein, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said they would reintroduce the ordinance next year after new councilmembers are sworn in.

Objections to the ordinance ranged from concerns over costs, to its lack of subpoena power, and even a lack of protections against officers incriminating themselves under questioning.

— New Pittsburgh Courier

Foundation aims to save Black area in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The 1940s in Las Vegas was an exciting time of growth, but not all residents shared in the excitement.

Just as the city’s Black community was growing in size and prominence, officials delivered a major blow to the Westside neighborhood, virtually the only area of the city where African Americans were permitted to live, and where some homes date to the 1920s.

Citing concerns over substandard housing, the city in 1944 and 1945 razed about 375 makeshift homes and shacks, displacing some of the thousands of people who had moved to Las Vegas for work.

Residents were not compensated for their destroyed dwellings, and some vacant lots in the neighborhood just blocks northwest of downtown Las Vegas still date to that ugly period, Heidi Swank, Nevada Preservation Foundation executive director, told the Las Vegas Sun.

As the cultural center of Las Vegas’ Black community, the Westside and its residents were subject to countless racist policies extending even after the formal end of segregation in 1971.

Now the foundation plans to use a $50,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to identify and highlight Westside stories of triumph, innovation and success. The nonprofit is housed in the former Westside School, which opened in 1923 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Swank said the grant, designed to help preserve neglected historically Black neighborhoods, can be a first step toward maintaining the area and revitalizing properties to benefit residents.

— The Associated Press

Virginia prison system changes visitation policy

VIRGINIA — Inmates in state prisons will be able change a visitation list only twice a year instead of anytime they wish, the Virginia Department of Corrections has announced.

The policy change, effective Jan. 1, is aimed at reducing the flow of contraband into prisons, VDOC stated.

In implementing the policy, the corrections department has notified prisoners to submit by Oct. 1 a list of up to 10 adults with visitation privileges. Children do not have to be listed.

Inmates with greater numbers of immediate family members can seek a waiver.

— Richomond Free Press

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