Category: Community

EDITORIAL: A Letter to Friends Who Really Want to End Racism

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Yesterday I posted a letter to friends on my personal Facebook page to help process my thoughts and feelings on what happened in Central Park with birder Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper and what happened to George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, as well as other recent events. Some have encouraged me to make the letter public, as it might help others. Since that is the primary mission of Good Black News, here it is:

Dear Friends,

First off, this is going to be a long one, so if you are inclined to read my more serious posts, circle back when you have a good 5-to-7 minutes. Secondly, thank you to everyone who took a moment to read, respond and/or comment on my post yesterday about the woman in Central Park who called the police to falsely report that an African American man was threatening her life. I appreciate the solidarity, the rage, the links, the legal statutes, the sharing of up-to-date information on the incident – all of it!

But I did not have it in me to reply or respond yesterday because following that post, I saw the Minnesota footage. I saw what could have happened to Christian Cooper actually happen to George Floyd. That took me places. If Central Park woman was my trigger, George Floyd was the bullet. I literally had to lie down.

Many of you know I have a site called Good Black News where for the last 10 years, I have been posting positive stories about Black people or about those who are doing positive things for Black people. If you don’t already know the reasons why I do it, I believe you can infer.

Part of my process in finding those positive stories is reading through A LOT of stories that are not. I usually bear this well for a few reasons: 1)I believe witnessing injustices, other human beings’ pain, struggles and conflicts and reading different perspectives on them is a helpful step to healing for everyone even when you don’t know yet what the step after that is 2)I’ve observed over time that within a few days or weeks, stories can swing from negative to positive, giving real-time affirmation to MLK’s “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice” quote 3) it’s worth the psychic toll it can take because knowledge is power and finding the good stuff is worth it.

But then there are days like yesterday, like after Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, the Charleston church massacre, Charlottesville… where I have to lie down. I no longer have it in me to find the way forward, to come up with suggestions, to look for the light.

I tried – I pulled out a pen and paper and tried to find clearer words to express what I was trying to say with the Central Park post re: advocating for policy/law change to help defang one specific part of systemic racism – the ability to lie to the police, attempt to use them as personal assassins and get away with it – but what I ended up writing down instead was a list of stories I’ve read recently that had been getting to me but I had not consciously acknowledged their deleterious affect:

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend

NFL listing Colin Kaepernick as “retired”

Disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown people dying from COVID-19

Armed White protestors intimidating lawmakers with NO police response

Swarms of park and beach parties – participants overwhelmingly White

Joe Biden’s “you ain’t Black” comment

The GOP and PROGRESSIVE’s weaponization of Joe Biden’s “you ain’t Black” comment

Children being deported from the border back to countries of origin WITH NO parent/guardian notified and no provisions put in place for their safety

A doctor friend’s post with the long list of names of doctors and healthcare providers who had lost their lives while combatting the COVID-19 crisis

The morning’s post on GBN about three Black men in Cleveland wrongly imprisoned for decades finally receiving $18 million from the city

After all that came out of me, I gave up trying to write out what I still couldn’t find words for. So I got up, focused on the home evening routine, and thought maybe after a good night’s sleep I might feel recharged or at least a little bit clearer and able to process it all.

Nope.

I woke up in the dark with Amy Cooper on my mind. There was something about that particular incident that contained some crucial connective tissue to all of the above that I still couldn’t find the words to express. Overtly, I knew it was about entitlement and feeling no compunction about weaponizing racist infrastructures, but there was something unnamed going on I needed to pinpoint, which was about more than one individual acting badly and, in my opinion, violently.

I couldn’t go back to sleep so I got out of bed before 5am to take the dog for an early walk. Maybe that would clear my head. I put on my headphones so I could listen to the “Hit Parade” episode on Lady Gaga as a welcome distraction (random pop culture aside: the “Hit Parade” podcast which my pal Teddy hipped me to is SO GOOD! Check it out if you love pop music history).

Twenty minutes later, my little Maltese Daisy had me all the way up the hill that ends at the beginning of the Mulholland trail. I am sweating and singularly transfixed by host Chris Molanphy’s analysis of all four “A Star Is Born” movies and what distinguishes Gaga’s turn at bat from Barbra’s, Judy’s and Janet’s.

Daisy and I normally don’t go on the trail because there are too many people up there with no masks in too narrow a space. But it was so early and there were no cars (indicating people already on the trail) and Daisy was curious, so we went up a small ways into it.

After a minute or two I decided to turn us around because the trail was getting narrow and some bikers or hikers could be coming down at any moment and I didn’t want to deal. As we were making our way out, I chose the fork to the right because it’s a little smoother grade and gives a better view of oncoming traffic.

But just as we head that way, a man with no mask and his unleashed 65-lb. dog come up towards us on that same fork. I react by immediately pulling Daisy towards the left and walking down the other way. This man’s unleashed dog keeps coming towards us. The man DOES NOTHING.

Daisy starts to get agitated and turns because the dog is coming at us. Daisy is 7 lbs. wet and leashed so I can control her, but her resistance and the rocks and the slope of the path make it more difficult to hustle away quickly and safely. The dog keeps coming, the man still does NOTHING, so I myself say “No!” to the dog. His dog ignores me, keeps coming.

Finally, the man calls the dog’s name. The dog turns its head for a moment but then still proceeds to come our way! I hustle as fast as I can down the other side of the fork and the dog finally trots back towards its master. The man says nothing and proceeds with his back turned from me as if this is all okay. I yell after him from a safe distance, “Your dog should be on a leash!” Because leash laws, which apply to this trail and all the streets surrounding it. He does not turn around. He ignores me and heads up the trail.

Well, that was it for Lady Gaga. I couldn’t concentrate on the podcast anymore so I turned it off and walked back down the hill with Daisy in silence. So much for forgetting about Amy Cooper. And that’s when it crystallized for me what the problem with that guy was and what the problem with Amy was.

They cared only about their freedom, their dog’s freedom and nothing about mine or Christian Cooper’s. And not (at first) in an aggressive or even a conscious way. It’s just something that neither this man nor Amy chose to factor into how they go into a public space.

They know the laws but want to ignore them when they think no one is around. And if someone else does show up – they are the ones who are annoyed! They don’t seem to have a conversation with themselves ahead of time or even in the moment that might go “Okay, I know I’m not following the rules/law, but if I do come across someone who is bothered or in any way put out by that, I’ll yield.”

And that was it. That is the most insidious, underlying aspect of entitlement – of supremacy – be it based on gender, creed, sexual preference, class or race – even when I’m wrong, even when I’m in a shared public space with rules and laws governing it for everyone’s protection, I DO NOT HAVE TO YIELD. Other people need to get out of my way. Cater to my choices. Even when I’m wrong, because the rules don’t apply to me. Or my dog. Only to others.

I was simultaneously angry and grateful in this moment. Angry because I had to yield and change my path to stay safe even though this guy was completely in the wrong. And I bet he’s not given one more thought to this morning’s moment, because unlike me, HE DOESN’T HAVE TO.

And yes, he was a White guy. (BTW, for what it’s worth, I do not think this was a racial incident in any conscious way because this guy did not know I would be there. But it IS racial because of his subconscious sense of entitlement that laws don’t apply to him when he doesn’t want them to, and there will be little to no consequence for him.) Grateful, because I think I finally found the words that are a good place to start for people who want to do the work to bring about equity, justice and safety for all:

Observe who you won’t yield to, then think about why. Observe others who won’t yield to others, then think about why.

Thank you for reading. I feel clearer now. Stronger. And ready to look for the light again.

Love,

Lori

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”

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)

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

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.

Good Black News Wishes You and Yours a Happy Mother’s Day in 2020

Good Black News joins in the honoring and remembrance of the women who gave us life, nurtured and raised us, and also offered us solace, counsel and wisdom.

Many of us can’t be with the mothers or mother figures in our lives today in person due to the global COVID-19 crisis, but we are with you in voice, online and always – in spirit!

To all the mothers out there – be they Aunties, Grandmothers, Cousins or Friends – thank you for all you do!

Happy Mother’s Day!

GBN’s Merry Month of Stevie: Celebrating the Wonders of Stevie’s Harmonica (LISTEN)

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

Stevie Wonder told us with his very first hit, ‘Fingertips,’ recorded when he was 12, that he was a harmonica master. Somehow, through all the genius songwriting, singing, production and keyboard innovation, we tend to forget about those harmonica skills.

But Stevie hasn’t.

His unmistakable harmonica blowing is right there, easy to find in such Stevie favorites throughout his career including ‘I Was Made to Love Her,’ ‘Isn’t She Lovely,’ ‘For Once In My Life,’ ‘That Girl,’ ‘We Can Work It Out,’ ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman,’ and even 1990s gems like ‘Treat Myself.’

Although he does play that Hohner Chromonica often on his own records, Wonder actually seems to utilize his harmonica skills most frequently as a means to collaborate with other artists.

From the 1960s to today, he’s played harmonica as a guest session man on over 150 songs from other artists. That’s more than 10 whole albums worth of additional Stevie-infused material!

To celebrate that part of Stevie’s career, today’s GBN Month of Stevie playlist is entitled “The Wonders of Stevie’s Harmonica, where we’ve amassed every Stevie Wonder harmonica guest appearance that we could find on Spotify into one huge list.

You’ll find a few famous hits – Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel For You,’ Elton John’s ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,’  Sting’s ‘Brand New Day,’ R&B classics from DeBarge’s ‘Love Me In A Special Way’ to Jermaine Jackson’s smash ‘Let’s Get Serious’ (which Stevie also wrote and produced). And one of my personal favorites, the Eurythmics #1 UK hit ‘There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart).’

And though he hasn’t released a full album of new work since 2005, Stevie Wonder has stayed relevant to the charts through these harmonica-based collabos. That’s Stevie’s harmonica on Drake’s ‘Take Care’ album – the #1 album of 2012.

He appears twice on the Mark Ronson 2015 album that contained the #1 song of that year, “Uptown Funk.” And just last year, that was Stevie’s harmonica again on rapper Travis Scott’s chart-topping album “AstroWorld.”

But going on Stevie Wonder’s harmonica journey through music takes you to more than just the top of the charts. One of the special things about being Stevie – a sonic force for nearly 60 years – is his wide-ranging love of music across all genres and generations, and his ability to play with all those people.

(photo via youtube.com)

While many associate the harmonica mostly with blues and folk sounds, Stevie takes the instrument to new places. To be expected, his harmonica is present in the work of his Motown compatriots from the Supremes to the Temptations to Smokey Robinson.

But he’s also played with the finest in rock music (Paul McCartney, James Taylor), popular standards (Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett), world music (Sergio Mendes, Djavan), jazz (Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie), pop (NSync, 98 Degrees, Mariah Carey), hip hop (Drake, Snoop Dogg) and gospel (BeBe Winans, Andrae Crouch). (Stevie, of course, has also ventured into Broadway, but the version of Rent’s ‘Seasons of Love’ with his contributions isn’t available on Spotify. But you can hear it here.)

The list closes with another personal favorite, this one from Stevie’s own catalog – his harmonica infused take on the classical holiday piece ‘Ave Maria’ – written in 1825 and sung primarily by opera singers through the centuries.

The 45-second harmonica solo here is simple and majestic, and completely at home within a classical music space, something I think only Stevie Wonder could achieve with this instrument.

Come take a ride on Stevie’s harmonica highway – and listen out for that unmistakable sound.  As with most musical adventures, we hope you will find something unexpectedly nice along with way.

Special thank you – assembling this playlist wouldn’t have been easily possible without the massive amounts of information on the fan website www.steviewonder.org.uk .

D-Nice to Host and DJ Virtual Prom for Class of 2020 on May 7

(image via Twitter)

Hip hop artist D-Nice has brought joy to hundreds of thousands of people by DJ’ing viral quarantine parties on Instagram Live since March. According to Revolt, D-Nice is now planning to do the same for high school seniors across the country who won’t be able to attend their physical prom this year due to COVID-19.

To quote Revolt:

D-Nice is teaming up with the social app Houseparty to throw a virtual prom for the Class of 2020. The House Party Prom will take place from 8 to 10 pm ET on May 7.

According to AJC, the teens can choose their musical theme, take prom photos and dance all from the safety of their own homes.

Before starting “Club Quarantine,” D-Nice started his career as a member of Boogie Down Productions alongside KRS-One, Lee Smith and the late Scott La Rock. He soon went solo and dropped albums such as To Tha Rescue and Call Me D-Nice.

Back in March, he came up with the idea to play music on Instagram Live for some friends and a few hundred people. As he continued to host the parties, he noticed that his numbers on Live began to grow tremendously. Everyone from Diddy to Michelle Obama made appearances at “Club Quarantine.”

Once the pandemic ends, he wants to be able to take his parties across the country. He has cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Atlanta in mind.

“Once we’re able to be able to be together again, I want to pick three cities to actually do a ‘Club Quarantine’ party live,” he told Rolling Stone last month. “Play that same vibe and celebrate with the same people we’ve been celebrating with virtually. Just to be able to see them face-to-face, play that music and feel that bass, that’s the ultimate goal that I have.”

To learn more, check out D-Nice on IG or Twitter.

MUSIC MONDAY: Weekly Playlist From GBN – A Collection of Stevie Wonder Covers

GBN contributor Marlon West is back and on point with a Spotify playlist he calls “Can I Get A Witness: A Collection of Stevie Wonder Covers” that is guaranteed to entertain and surprise.

In Marlon’s words:

“I’m thrilled to take part in Good Black News’ monthlong celebration of Stevland Hardaway Morris aka Stevie Wonder’s 70th Birthday.

My first offering is this collection of him performing covers and standards. Stevie Wonder’s songs have provided the soundtrack to our lives. Though he has been able to make so many other songs “his own.”

Starting with his childhood idol, Ray Charles, here’s a collection of songs by a wide-ranging batch of artists including Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, Cher, B.B. King, Glenn Miller, The Doors, The Supremes and so many others.

Do enjoy. Stay safe, you all and “see” ya next week! Take care!!”