Category: Justice

Crown Act Law Makes California 1st State in U.S. to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles

According to cnn.com, this past Wednesday, California became the first state in the United States to ban employers and school officials from discriminating against people based on their natural hair.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Crown Act (aka CA Senate Bill No. 188) into law, making it illegal to enforce dress code or grooming policies against hairstyles such as afros, braids, twists, and locks.

To quote CNN’s article:

Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill earlier this year, said the law is about “inclusion, pride and choice.” “This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms,” Mitchell said in a statement Wednesday. “I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law.”

Newsom said the law was “long-overdue” but many Americans only became aware of the issue last December when a referee at a wrestling tournament in New Jersey ordered a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.

The student had to choose whether “to lose an athletic competition or lose his identity,” Newsom said.

“That’s played out in workplaces, it’s played out in schools — not just in athletic competitions and settings — every single day all across America in ways that are subtle, in ways overt,” Newsom said during a bill-signing ceremony.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, addresses policies against natural hair that are unfair toward women and people of color, the governor’s office said. “Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group,” according to the law.

Mitchell said that until recently an image search for “unprofessional hairstyles” only showed black women with natural hair, braids or twists. “I believe that any law, policy or practice that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a profession — not because of my capacity or my capabilities or my experience but because of my hairstyle choice — is long overdue for reform,” said Mitchell, who observed that she wears her hair in a natural style.

Mitchell said that similar state and federal laws protect against discrimination due to religious hairstyles and head coverings.

Below are highlights from the text of the Crown Act: Continue reading “Crown Act Law Makes California 1st State in U.S. to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles”

Ta-Nehisi Coates Makes Compelling Case for Reparations on Capitol Hill (WATCH)

In response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s recent dismissal of reparations as not “a good idea” for the U.S. government to consider giving descendants of enslaved people, especially since no one currently alive “is responsible,” “Between the World and Me” author Ta-Nehisi Coates told lawmakers at a House committee hearing that the debate over reparations is “a dilemma of inheritance.”

Coates told lawmakers that many of the inequalities created by centuries of slavery persist today, including in the form of economic and health disparities. Watch Coates above read his 2014 “The Case for Reparations” essay here, read some of his testimony below:

The method of cultivating this asset was neither gentle cajoling nor persuasion, but torture, rape, and child trafficking. Enslavement reigned for 250 years on these shores. When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — to all, regardless of color. But America had other principles in mind. And so, for a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.

It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders, and the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs. Coup d’états and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.

We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited civil rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.

What they know, what this committee must know, is that while emancipation deadbolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open. And that is the thing about Senator McConnell’s “something”: It was 150 years ago. And it was right now.

The typical black family in this country has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share.

And The Children Shall Lead Them: Georgetown University Students Vote to Pay Fee to Benefit Descendants of Enslaved People Sold By School

Georgetown University Healy Hall (photo via wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, the student body of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. recently voted on a proposal to add a semester fee of $27.20 that would go toward a fund to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved persons once owned and then sold in 1838 by the university to pay off debt. The referendum passed by a vote of 2,541 to 1,304, which means nearly two-thirds of enrolled students are in favor of the new fee.

“The university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday’s election,” said Todd Olson, Georgetown’s Vice President for Student Affairs, in an official statement. “Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”

Georgetown administrators, however, have said the student referendum is nonbinding, and the school’s 39-member board of directors would have to vote on the measure, according to the school’s student newspaper, the Hoya.

If Georgetown’s board approves, reports The Huffington Post, it would be one of the first major U.S. institutions to create a fund for slavery reparations.

Critics of the reparations fund have argued that it should not be current students’ responsibility to atone for the school’s past.

Like many American institutions in recent years, Georgetown has been grappling with its role in slavery. Last year, Georgetown issued a formal apology to the descendants of the 272 slaves and announced a policy to give them priority in admissions. The university also renamed two campus buildings, including one in honor of Isaac Hawkins, the first person listed in the 1838 sale.

Nationally, the issue of reparations has been in the spotlight lately. Earlier this week, the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “When Slaveowners Got Reparations”, pointing out how President Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 that paid up to $300 to slaveholders for every enslaved person freed when he emancipated those in bondage in Washington D.C. In 2014, journalist and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations,” for The Atlantic, highlighting the topic, and even typically conservative NY Times writer David Brooks wrote in March why he’s come around to the cause.

Several 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have expressed support, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who this week announced legislation to study the issueSens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also have called for a closer look at the issue.

Princeton Seminary Students Call for Reparations and Creation of Black Church Studies Program for School’s Role in Slavery

Alexander Hall at Princeton Theological Seminary (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to the Washington Post, the Association of Black Seminarians, who are comprised of Princeton Theological Seminary students, have petitioned for and are calling on the institution to offer reparations for its role in and past ties to slavery. To quote the Post:

“A group of black seminarians has collected more than 400 signatures in an online petition calling on the institution to “make amends” by setting aside $5.3 million annually — or 15 percent of what the seminary uses from its endowment for its operating expenses — to fund tuition grants for black students and establish a Black Church Studies program.

As a progressive seminary, Princeton could become a pioneer by distributing reparations, said Justin Henderson, president of the Association of Black Seminarians, the group behind the petition. The school has confessed and repented for the “sin” of its role in slavery, but “repentance doesn’t end with confession,” said Henderson, who will finish his master of divinity studies in May.

“Restitution is evidence of the repentance,” he said. “This is how we know the person has repented.”

To read further, click here.

Gucci and Dapper Dan Announce $5M Changemakers Initiative Aimed at Diversity and Inclusion

Since being under fire for its balaclava sweater that resembled blackface, luxury brand Gucci is attempting to redeem itself. According to harpersbazaar.com, the Italian fashion house has announced a new global program and scholarship fund called Gucci Changemakers that will promote diversity and inclusion throughout the company with a multi-step action plan.

The program includes three tiers: the Gucci Changemakers Fund, a scholarship program, and a company-wide volunteering initiative. All three programs intend to foster racial diversity within the company as well as the fashion industry as a whole. Legendary designer Dapper Dan, who launched a street style-themed collection for Gucci last year, has been working with Gucci to develop Changemakers. Dan took to Instagram yesterday to publicize these steps towards progress:

Time will tell if these actions will be enough to redeem the brand and establish true inclusion and equity, but with DeRay McKesson, will.i.am, writer/activist Brittany Packnett as part of the Changemakers Council as well, Gucci is at least setting itself up to be held accountable.

Bronx Students Protesting for Change Declare Victory After Three-Day Lockout of Administration Sparked by Racist Video

According to bronx.news12.com, after days of students protesting for change at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Bronx, NY, their lockout of administration has ended in victory.

Nearly 90 students took part in the lockout that started Monday, and some even slept at the school. Thirty students spent Wednesday afternoon and evening negotiating with board members and school administrators – alongside alumni mediators who were involved in a similar push for equality at the school almost 50 years ago.

The campaign for change was launched at Fieldston after a video surfaced recently showing students engaging in racist and hateful behavior a few years back.

Isbella Ali was one of the students who helped secure the changes, which include racial bias training for all staff and parents, recruiting more students and faculty of color, and introducing a mandatory black studies course to the curriculum.

“We’ll make sure that they implement the demands that they have agreed too,” says Ali.

The Board of Trustees signed off on 16 long-term improvements put forth by members of the “Students of Color Matter” movement. One of their demands for the administration was establishing a new system to report bias.

State Attorney General Letitia James released a statement saying, “Students in this state and around the country often learn about the importance of activism, civil rights, and social justice in their textbook, but rarely do they have the opportunity to live it.”

To see video: http://bronx.news12.com/story/40124399/fieldston-students-end-lock-out-claim-administration-accepted-demands

To read more: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/students-of-color-matter-are-protesting-at-ethical-culture-fieldston-school

Update: Honoring the Legacy of Marielle Franco from Los Angeles to New York

Today, March 14, 2019, marks one year after the assassination of Brazilian Councilwoman Marielle Franco, who fought tirelessly for the rights of women, the poor and the Black communities in her native country. Two recent events in the United States were held in celebration of her too-short-yet-impactful life, and more are listed below:

International Women’s Day Honor – The Bronx, NY

A seventh grade class at Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School selected Marielle Franco as their honoree this year for International Women’s Day. Shirley Phillips, CEO and Founder of Go Girlz Inc., stated, “Marielle ignited a new generation of young activists willing to protect her legacy. These students did all the artwork themselves. I did nothing except direct and lead them to research.”

Fight Like Marielle Franco – Lute Como Marielle Franco – Los Angeles, CA

The L.A. Chapter of Coletivo Por Um Brasil Democratico gathered a group of music artists, activists and scholars together at Los Angeles City Hall for a tribute of heartfelt music, teary-eyed speeches, and readings of one of Marielle’s essays in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Continue reading “Update: Honoring the Legacy of Marielle Franco from Los Angeles to New York”

BHM: Marielle Franco – The Voice of the People Who Had No Voice

Marielle Franco (Photo: Property of Midia Ninja)

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters who were spread out all through the Americas, we aim to build a stronger bridge between African Americans in North America to African Americans in Latin America, the deeper south. Thus, to officially close out this Black History Month, Good Black News presents… Marielle Franco.

Marielle Franco was an African American from Brazil who fought for human rights in a country that has never had a Martin Luther King, Jr.

During three centuries of international slave trade, over ten times as many Africans were enslaved and trafficked to Brazil than the U.S. Marielle Franco proudly served as the rising hope and promise for a better future for these descendants of enslaved Africans in a country where blackface is currently accepted as “normal” entertainment on TV, movies and at community celebrations. It is also the place where the overall deplorable treatment of African Americans needs to be vitally changed.

Marielle proved a deeply committed love for the people of her community. She tirelessly fought to protect the black community, the poor, women, and the LGBT+ community from violence and discrimination. This phenomenal woman didn’t seek power. With a loving approach, she merely accepted the mission presented before her by saying the things that needed to be said and fighting the battles that needed to be fought.

While serving with a fearless commitment, she paid the ultimate price. In her short 38 years of life, Marielle accomplished much while overcoming incredible odds in order to do so.

Born in the vulnerable area of Maré, Rio De Janeiro, Marielle began working at the age of 11 to help her parents pay for school. At 19, she began raising her daughter as a single mother while working as a teacher and earning a scholarship to one of the highest ranking universities in all of Latin America, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio De Janeiro.

Marielle was one of two black students attending the university even though the country of Brazil is over 50% black. She graduated with an emphasis in social sciences and went on to complete her master’s degree in public administration at Fluminense Federal University. After graduation, Marielle worked for civil society organizations and shaped the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship.

Marielle’s life experiences, studies, and work inspired her to run for Rio’s City Council despite the overwhelmingly high number of white men who dominated the field. In 2016, Marielle won her campaign with the 5th highest number of votes out of a pool of 1,500 candidates.

During her career as councilwoman, Marielle served as President of the Council’s Women’s Defense Commission. She spoke out about the violence that inequalities create among poor areas and proposed bills as solutions to the systematic injustices plaguing her community.

Continue reading “BHM: Marielle Franco – The Voice of the People Who Had No Voice”

Byron Allen Wins Preliminary U.S. Court Victories Against Comcast and Charter Communications Over Racial Discrimination

Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen (photo via thewrap.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to PRNewswire, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios (ES) and the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) – plaintiffs in federal lawsuits filed against Comcast and Charter Communications – have announced two decisions issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that will allow them to go to trial against two of the largest cable television carriers in the country.

In the $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and the $10 billion suit against Charter, the carriers are accused of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracting. For years, Entertainment Studios has been requesting that Comcast and Charter carry its networks, which are distributed by Comcast and Charter’s competitors, including Verizon, DirecTV, AT&T, DISH, and many other carriers, to millions of people around the country.

Both Comcast and Charter, however, refused all of Allen’s requests for network carriage. Subsequently, Allen filed lawsuits in federal district court in Los Angeles.

In two historically significant decisions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Comcast and Charter’s attempts to dismiss the cases before trial. The Court upheld Entertainment Studios’ Section 1981 claims against both Comcast and Charter; and instead ruled that both cases could proceed in the trial courts to discovery and trial.

“These two decisions against Comcast and Charter are very significant, unprecedented, and historic,” said Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Entertainment Studios. “The lack of true economic inclusion for African Americans will end with me, and these rulings show that I am unwavering in my commitment to achieving this long overdue goal.”

“The Court’s rulings overwhelmingly reflect the Ninth Circuit’s rejection of the Defendants’ positions and arguments,” said Mark DeVitre, President of plaintiff, NAAAOM. “I look forward to quickly moving into discovery where we expect much more evidence to surface.”

“These decisions are hugely important in terms of opening the courts to African American-owned media. The Court paved the way to our eventual success at trial by ensuring that the proper ‘mixed motive’ standard for our claims – a lower standard of proof than the ‘but for’ standard argued by Comcast and Charter – applies,” said Entertainment Studios’ attorney, Skip Miller, partner in Miller Barondess. “Additionally, the Court dismissed Charter’s and Comcast’s attempts to use the First Amendment as a shield for their alleged discrimination. I very much look forward to trying these cases. And I give Mr. Allen tremendous credit for having the will and the constitution to invest the capital and resources to pursue them relentlessly.”

According to Deadline.com, Charter and Comcast issued separate statements, expressing disappointment with the ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” Comcast said in a statement.

Charter was more pointed in its response. “This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors,” Charter said in a statement to Deadline. “We are disappointed with today’s decision and will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims.”

The Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios alleged Charter’s former senior vice president of programming, Allan Singer, refused to meet with its representatives. Singer rescheduled and postponed meetings and offered “disingenuous” explanations for refusing to carry it programming, according to court documents.

Singer said bandwidth limitations and operational demands precluded carriage of ENT’s cable networks, while reaching carriage agreements with “lesser-known, white-owned channels” such as the rural focused RFD-TV and the horror channel Chiller.

Court documents cite evidence of racial bias, including one instance in which Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters and told them “to get off welfare.” Additionally, in court documents Charter CEO Tom Rutledge is alleged to have referred to Allen as “Boy” at an industry event.

“Plaintiffs suggest that these incidents are illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism,” the Appeals Court writes, in summarizing the case’s history. “Noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men.”

Entertainment Studios ascribed similar discriminatory motives on the part of Comcast, which offered carriage deals to such networks as Inspirational Network, Fit TV, Outdoor Channel and Baby First Americas while telling Allen it had no bandwidth or storage capacity for his networks.

Allen founded Entertainment Studios in 1993 and owns eight 24-hour HD television networks serving nearly 160 million subscribers: THE WEATHER CHANNEL, PETS.TV, COMEDY.TV, RECIPE.TV, CARS.TV, ES.TV, MYDESTINATION.TV, and JUSTICE CENTRAL.TV. The company also produces, distributes, and sells advertising for 41 television programs, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations.

Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures is a full-service, theatrical motion picture distribution company specializing in wide release commercial content. ESMP released 2017’s highest-grossing independent movie, the shark thriller 47 METERS DOWN, which grossed over $44.3 million. In 2018, ESMP also released the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Western HOSTILES and the historic mystery-thriller CHAPPAQUIDDICK.

Upcoming releases include the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller REPLICAS, the John Krasinski/Emily Blunt-starring animated feature ANIMAL CRACKERS, and Joe Carnahan’s Mel Gibson/Naomi Watts starring action-thriller BOSS LEVEL.

ELECTION DAY 2018: Have You Voted? #WhenWeAllVote

GBN Editors Lori Lakin Hutcherson (l) and Lesa Lakin (r) voting at the polls on November 6, 2018.

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Just a quick reminder if you haven’t found a moment yet to make it to the polls today, there’s still time! GBN Lifestyle/Sports Editor Lesa Lakin and I have hit our respective voting places already – fortunately we had good weather – we urge you to do the same if you haven’t already. We must never forget the sacrifices those who came before us have made – marching, protesting, even dying – to secure every citizen’s right to vote.

photo via National Youth Rights Association

So let’s protect our rights and let the powers that be know when we demand change. If you don’t like your local, state or federal laws or officials, foster change by making your voice heard. If you’re not sure where your polling place is, click here to enter your address to find out. If you don’t have transportation, Lyft and Uber are offering free or discounted rides. If you get to the polls and there is some discrepancy, you have the right to demand a provisional ballot. Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Rock lay the facts out about this beautifully in the video below:

Onward and upward, together! #GoVote