City of Cleveland to Pay $18 Million to Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu for Decades of Wrongful Imprisonment

(photo of wrongfully convicted brothers Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu via moguldom.com)

Earlier this month, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay a combined $18 million to Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and his brother Kwame Ajamu, three men who spent decades in prison for a 1975 killing they did not commit, according to cleveland.com.

The trio reached this settlement during an 12-hour mediation held by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, and will end the lawsuits each man filed for the time they spent behind bars.

To quote from the cleveland.com article:

The men, now in their 60s, were convicted of murder in 1975 for the shooting of money order collector Harold Franks at what was then the Fairmont Cut Rate Store on the city’s East Side. The trio maintained their innocence and were cleared in 2014.

Jackson had served 39 years in prison and was believed at the time to have served the longest amount of time behind bars of anyone wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Ajamu, with tears frequently streaming down his face, said they were accepting the settlement because “we now know that you have no other reason and no other recourse but to tell the world that you wronged three little black boys 45 years ago.”

While thanking his lawyers Terry Gilbert and Jacqueline Greene of Friedman & Gilbert, Ajamu expressed gratitude but did not downplay the long fight he, his brother and friend undertook to clear their names.

“Money cannot buy freedom and money certainly does not make innocence,” said Ajamu, who in addition to Gilbert and Greene was also represented by attorney David Mills.

A jury in August 1975 found Jackson, Bridgeman and Ajamu, then known as Ronnie Bridgeman, guilty of murdering Franks. They were also convicted of trying to kill store owner Anna Robinson. Cuyahoga County prosecutors relied on the eyewitness testimony of young Eddie Vernon to prove their case.

A judge sentenced the men to death, though the sentences were reduced to life in 1978 when the state enacted a short-lived moratorium on the death penalty.

Nearly 40 years later, Vernon recanted his testimony and judges overturned the men’s criminal convictions. Vernon, who was 12 years old when Franks was killed, said in 2014 that city detectives pressured him to lie on the witness stand, which included threats to jail his parents, and that police manipulated him.

Bridgeman, 65, and Jackson, 63, were released in 2014 with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, which obtained Vernon’s recantation. Ajamu, 62, was paroled in 2003. The story of the murder and the work done to secure their freedom was chronicled in a book called “Good Kids, Bad City” written by Kyle Swenson, now a reporter for The Washington Post who covered the case for the alternative weekly Cleveland Scene.

Continue reading “City of Cleveland to Pay $18 Million to Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu for Decades of Wrongful Imprisonment”

MUSIC MONDAY: Desert Island Stevie Wonder – What 20 Songs Would You Bring? (LISTEN)

As Good Black News enters the last week in our month-long celebration of Stevie Wonder‘s 70th birthday via posts and playlists, we thought we’d kick it off with something a little different.

In the past few weeks we’ve offered playlists of Wonder’s greatest hits, covers, his phenomenal harmonica work, soundtrack cuts, deep cuts, duets, and even other artists covering his classic 1970s albums “Songs in The Key of Life” and “Talking Book.”

While we still have several more great Stevie-themed playlists to share in the final days of May, today GBN is asking you to join in the fun!

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 20 Stevie Wonder songs with you, what would they be? And why? Please share your own Spotify list or written list in the comments!

GBN contributor Marlon West gamely took up this challenge to pave the playlist path. In Marlon’s words:

“Here’s my last offering/delightful assignment of this monthlong celebration of Stevie Wonder’s 70th Birthday. Twenty Stevie Wonder songs you’d take to a Desert Island. Here’s mine. It is not an “essential” list or a “best of.” This is a collection of 20 songs that have enduring appeal to me personally.

You may notice my list leans heavy on 1980’s “Hotter than July.” It was the record that came out when I was rolling around in my parents’ car as a freshly-minted driver. I wore that cassette tape out. So that record looms large for me.

What’s your list look/sound like? Please share yours in the comments.

June is African American Music Appreciation Month! See ya next week with the first of my four offerings for that month-long tribute.

As usual, stay safe, sane, and kind.”

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(FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest)

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

Candice Story Lee Named Athletic Director at Vanderbilt University, 1st Black Woman to Lead Power 5 Program

Candice Storey Lee (photo: Twitter)

According to espn.com, Vanderbilt University recently announced that Candice Storey Lee, a former standout student-athlete and three-time Vanderbilt graduate, has been named Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director at Vanderbilt after serving in the role on a temporarily since February 2020.

Lee is Vanderbilt’s first female athletic director and the first African American woman to head a Southeastern Conference (SEC) athletics program. The permanent hire places her in the top tier of college athletics as one of only five women currently leading a “Power 5” program.

“Candice is perfectly positioned to lead our athletics program to new heights of success on and off the field of play. She has the drive, creativity and perseverance to help elevate our student-athletes and the entire Vanderbilt Athletics program,” said Incoming Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

Lee has served as an integral leader at the university and in Athletics for almost 20 years. Prior to becoming interim athletic director, she served as deputy athletic director, a role she was appointed to in 2016. Lee was also a captain on Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team, graduating in 2000.

To quote from ESPN:

“It’s really interesting and humbling to hear words like pioneer and trailblazer, and I appreciate that. I know it’s significant, and it just reminds me of the responsibility that lies ahead,” Lee said on Freddie and Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio on Thursday night. “I want to do a great job for all the people that I’m working with and for, but I also want to make sure that I’m not a deterrent when there are other opportunities presented to other people of color and other women and other people who are deserving of opportunities.

“There are a lot of people out there that just need a chance, and so if part of this can mean that there are more opportunities to come for others? I’m really excited about that.”

Read more: https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/29205275/vandy-makes-candice-lee-sec-first-female-black-ad

Tedx Speaker Dena Crowder Offers 3-Minute Guide On Our Mental Health and Well-Being During the Pandemic (WATCH)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., and in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are finding our mental well-being challenged in unexpected, extraordinary ways.

Black and Brown Americans are hit hard by both – first by disproportionately suffering the physical and financial effects of the COVID-19 crisis, on top of being, according to Medical News Today, more likely to suffer higher rates of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) than White Americans.

According to studies by the American Psychological Association (APA), minorities experience a significant degree of marginalization and discrimination, which can stifle socioeconomic growth as well as access to healthcare, including formal mental health support.

So, in the spirit of aiding those who don’t have the opportunity, access to, or much time for mental healthcare, Tedx speaker, performance coach and GBN’s “This Way Forward” contributor Dena Crowder has put together a three-minute “Power Shot” with some guiding words and a quick breath exercise that can help you re-center in these overwhelming times:

Enjoy… and breathe!

(Dena Crowder: DenaCrowder.com; IG: dena.crowder)

Dena Crowder (photo courtesy Dena Crowder)

GBN’s MERRY MONTH OF STEVIE: Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book” Speaks Again Through Its Covers (LISTEN)

by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)

On a previous post, GBN presented a playlist featuring all cover versions (remakes) from Stevie Wonder‘s legendary album “Songs in the Key of Life.”

With today’s playlist, from our month of playlists devoted to Stevie Wonder in honor of his 70th birthday, we take the same approach to Stevie’s 1972 watershed album, “Talking Book.” “Talking Book” is at the front end of Stevie’s period of immense creativity in the 1970s.

Still in his early 20s, and having won creative freedom over his work in his newest Motown contract, he created a multi-textured album filled with funk rhythms, smooth soul, and swinging pop – all merged together into one genius record that still sounds great today. (To hear NPR’s “Story of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book” segment, click here.)

The album kicks off with the elegant “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – which has become Stevie’s most-covered song, with over 250 versions recorded by other artists through the years according to SecondHandSongs.com (a website devoted to cover songs).

Many of those versions are similar. As evidence of Stevie’s complete crossover popularity by that point in his career, ‘Sunshine’ actually became an easy listening staple, performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Mathis to Liza Minnelli – and also by Jim Nabors, Vicki Lawrence, Brigitte Bardot and Englebert Humperdinck.

Opening with alternative rocker Jack White‘s version of that standard, our goal is to give you a playlist that feels both familiar to your memories of the original album, but also stretches musically to a few new places.

We’ve mixed in rock, easy listening, funk, dance, a cappella, jazz, Brazilian by artists as diverse as Macy Gray, Rufus, Michael Bublé and Sergio Mendes. We’ve placed the songs in their original album order, and have limited each song to one version – and each covering artist to only one track.

The list concludes with one of the newest Stevie Wonder covers – actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph beautifully covers “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” for the soundtrack to “High Fidelity,” the new Hulu series in which she co-stars. Set around the vinyl-obsessed employees of a small independent record store, the choice to cover Stevie circa 2020 demonstrates that the music faithful still remain true believers in the sounds of Mr. Wonder.

Enjoy!

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Chelsea Phaire, 10, Donates Over 1,500 Art Kits to Kids in Foster Care and Homeless Shelters During COVID-19 Crisis

(Photo via chelseascharity.com)

Chelsea Phaire, a 10-year-old from Danbury, Connecticut, has sent more than 1,500 children in homeless shelters and foster care homes art kits to give them something to play and create with during these extra-stressful times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to CNN.com, the kits — which offer markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, colored pencils, and gel pens — are sent to schools and shelters across the country as part of Chelsea’s Charity, an organization founded by Chelsea and her parents.

To quote the CNN article:

“Since she was seven, she was begging me and her dad to start a charity,” Candace Phaire, Chelsea’s mom, told CNN. “She was so persistent, every couple of months she would ask, ‘Are we starting Chelsea’s Charity yet?’ When she was turning 10, she asked us again, and we decided it was time to go for it.”

After her birthday party, Chelsea used the donations to send out her first 40 art kits to a homeless shelter in New York. The family then set up an Amazon wishlist full of art supplies. Every time they get enough donations, they pack up the kits and deliver them to kids in person.

In just the first five months, Chelsea and her mom sent out nearly 1,000 kits to children in homeless shelters, foster care homes, women’s shelters, and schools impacted by gun violence.

(photo via Instagram)

Before the pandemic, Chelsea was able to travel with her mom across the country to meet the kids in-person, and even teaches them some of her favorite drawing tips.

Now, schools are closed, and social distancing precautions will not allow Chelsea to physically interact with the kids as much. Instead, she and her mom are mailing the kits.

Since March, when schools began to close, the family has sent over 1,500 kits to schools, shelters, and foster homes in 12 states across the US.

“I feel good inside knowing how happy they are when they get their art kits,” Chelsea told CNN. “I have definitely grown as a person because of this. Now my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we’ll have world peace!”

Read more: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/20/us/10-year-old-girl-art-kits-foster-care-homeless-shelter-trnd/index.html

MUSIC MONDAY: That’s What Friends Are For: Stevie Wonder Duets (LISTEN)

As Good Black News continues its month-long tribute to Stevie Wonder in his 70th year on planet Earth, Marlon West has compiled a new Spotify playlist celebrating the times Wonder has graciously and successfully shared the spotlight with other artists.

Although Wonder’s collaborative skills are most famously remembered from the 1986 Grammy-winning chart topper “That’s What Friends Are For” with Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Gladys Knight that raised over $3 million dollars for AIDS research and prevention, he’s been at it for decades with a wide variety of artists and in the name of so many worthy causes and ideas.

Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney (photo via libraryofcongress.gov)

This playlist ranges from Stevie’s work with the Queen of the Beyhive (Beyoncé) on a heartfelt Luther Vandross tribute, to his duet with a former Beatle (Paul McCartney) to confront racism, a reworking one of his best-loved love songs with a Canadian diva (Celine Dion), to a loving back-and-forth with his first-born daughter (Aisha Morris, who famously made her debut on 1976’s “Isn’t She Lovely” when still a baby).

In Marlon’s words:

Hello and Happy Monday, you all! Stevie Wonder is one if the most distinctive and prolific voices in popular music. He is a singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist.

The brotha is one of greatest solo artists and bandleaders of our times. That said, Stevie Wonder has made many collaborations with other artists. He’s done duets, been a guest artist, and even a session musician one dozens of records. This playlist is devoted to Stevie Wonder’s duets. Do enjoy!

And as always, stay safe, sane, and kind!

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(FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest)

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

GBN’s MERRY MONTH OF STEVIE: Cover Songs In The Key Of Life (LISTEN)

by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)

Ever since this writer was elementary school age and first becoming aware of music, I’ve been obsessed with the artistic connections created by “cover” versions (“remakes,” in layman’s terms).

My father and I would routinely spend a Saturday night pairing together interesting playlists for each other comprised of original versions and their remakes, usually trying to find versions as far apart musically from the originals as possible.

Several decades ago, this was very labor intensive – we had to go ‘digging in the crates’ through our own vinyl, and we had to actually know and remember that the cover version had been done. Piecing it all together was half the fun.

Today, with Spotify and the internet, it’s much much easier to uncover covers. Just type in the song name and often you’ll find hundreds of options to pick from, especially when we’re talking about Stevie Wonder, who has literally had thousands of remakes done of his songs.

So many versions, in fact, that it’s impossible to weed through them all. (According to SecondHandSongs.com, a website devoted to ‘cover’ songs, Stevie is the most covered R&B artist of all time.)

So with today’s Stevie Wonder playlist from GBN, I’ve limited myself to covers of songs from his landmark 1976 double album “Songs in the Key of Life.” “Songs in the Key of Life” capped a prolific mid-1970s golden era for Stevie Wonder, winning him a remarkable third Grammy for Album of the Year – all three of his wins coming in just four years!  Many lists feature “Songs” as one of the best albums of all-time.

You may ask – why should I listen to cover versions when the originals are so perfect? I certainly won’t argue with the originals’ perfection. And I don’t think that any of the artists here would argue either that their version supersedes Stevie’s own.

What I would say is that cover versions can do several things.  First, they evoke the true songwriting abilities underlying the original song – a great ‘song’ should be able to stand up to multiple interpretations.

Second, when the cover version is in a different genre (and these are the most interesting ones, usually) – they can bring the listener to new places musically that they may not have ventured before. Third, after hearing an iconic album so many times that it becomes almost second nature, it can be refreshing to hear it again in a new way.

In this playlist, we’ve got the entire ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ song list, in the same order as the original – with the four ‘bonus tracks’ from the extra single included in the original release added to the end.

Each song has only one extra version – and each covering artist is limited to just one track. The mix spans jazz, folk, rock, Latin, soul, dance music and many more, including Luther Vandross, Thelma Houston, Najee, Mary J. Blige and James Taylor‘s brother Livingston Taylor. There’s even a Spice Girl in there if you look for her!

We hope you enjoy it.

GirlTrek Brings #DaughtersOf Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz Together for 1st-Ever Public Conversation this Friday

On Friday, May 15th, GirlTrek’s #DaughtersOf LIVE discussions continue with Dr. Bernice A. King and Ilyasah Shabazz uniting for a first-ever public conversation on their families’ legacies, debunking the myths that have followed them and sharing the lessons they learned from their legendary mothers Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz.

The conversation, starting at 7 p.m. EST via FB LIVE, will be centered around the radical lessons King and Shabazz’s mothers passed down and the generational healing they each experienced that molded them into the fearless women they’ve become.

#DaughtersOf is a multifaceted-initiative to examine the immediate and critical importance of self-care and healing for Black women through the lens of their matrilineal traditions. ​

It is a call for a mass rejuvenation through the sharing of our stories on hope, healing and happiness. Daughters Of will include a gorgeous feature film and videos where Black women call their mothers’ names and share everything from self-care secrets to recipes and stories of healing and thriving. View the trailer below:

“Among the definitions that GirlTrek shares for its name and work is ‘To heal our bodies, inspire our daughters, and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods.’ I believe that the three-fold purpose within this definition is critical to our holistic health, from our consciences to our communities,” said Dr. Bernice A. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

“I join with GirlTrek in fulfilling this purpose by engaging in a #DaughtersOf conversation with my sister-friend, Ilyasah Shabazz. It is my hope that the conversation honors our foremothers, inspires our daughters and encourages those who experience the moment to commit to building the Beloved Community.”

“Black women have turned pain into purpose for generations in this country, and now more than ever we need to look to the past for the lessons that can be applied right now to help us navigate trying times,” said GirlTrek cofounder Vanessa Garrison.

“Our goal with these #DaughtersOf livestreams is to pass on the knowledge and wisdom of the women who came before us and to teach us all how to persevere through trying times, because it is what Black women have always done.”

With more than 650,000 active members and counting, GirlTrek as profiled on CNN, is the largest health movement and nonprofit for Black women and girls in the country.

GirlTrek encourages Black women to use radical self-care and walking as the first practical step to leading healthier, more fulfilled lives. GirlTrek is on a mission to inspire one million Black women to walk in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives by the end of 2020 and it all starts with taking the pledge at GirlTrek.org.

Happy 70th Birthday To Ya, Stevie Wonder! (LISTEN)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

It’s no secret how much the Good Black News team loves and reveres Stevie Wonder, as we have been celebrating him throughout May with various tributes, posts and playlists  on the main page and across our social media.

(In case you missed Jeff Meier‘s The Wonders of Stevie’s Harmonica or Marlon West‘s Stevie Soundtrack Songs and Stevie Cover Songs posts and playlists, treat yourself and click through!)

But today, on May 13, Stevie Wonder’s actual birthday, we want to offer you links to all things Stevie, like his official website, Instagram (which is playing Stevie music live all day!) and Twitter, the biography written about him, as well as the Wikipedia and Biography entries that encapsulate the his life and career in words and video.

But really, to know Stevie all you have to do is listen to his music, especially the songs that comprise the majority of his offerings to this world – album tracks never released as singles – aka Stevie Wonder’s Deep Cuts.

Our newest playlist is comprised solely of these songs, and arguably they are as moving and meaningful as his tunes that topped the charts.

In fact, many of these songs (“You and I,” “Too High,” “Bird of Beauty,” “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” “Rocket Love”) are more popular with Stevie stans than many of his global hits.

They are sequenced in chronological order (like our companion playlist of chart releases and hits “The Age of Wonder”) so the listener can hear the evolution of Stevie Wonder’s writing, production and sound. Enjoy – and Happy Birthday, Stevie! We love you!

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