R.I.P. Dovey Johnson Roundtree, 104, Army Captain, Minister and Trailblazing Civil Rights Lawyer

Dovey Johnson Roundtree outside the United States District Court in Washington, about 1985. “As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” the co-author of her memoir said. (Credit: via Dovey Johnson Roundtree)

by Margalit Fox via nytimes.com

The jurors were looking at her when they filed into court. That, Dovey Johnson Roundtree knew, could have immense significance for her client, a feebleminded day laborer accused of one of the most sensational murders of the mid-20th century.

Little had augured well for that client, Raymond Crump Jr., during his eight-day trial in United States District Court in Washington: Mr. Crump, who had been found near the crime scene, was black and poor. The victim was white, glamorous and supremely well connected. The country, in the summer of 1965, seethed with racial tension amid the surging civil rights movement.

Federal prosecutors had amassed a welter of circumstantial evidence — including 27 witnesses and more than 50 exhibits — to argue that on Oct. 12, 1964, Mr. Crump had carried out the execution-style shooting of Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite said to have been a former lover of President John F. Kennedy.

By contrast, Ms. Roundtree, who died on Monday at 104, had chosen to present just three witnesses and a single exhibit to the jury, which comprised men and women, blacks and whites. Her closing argument was only 20 minutes long.

Now, on July 30, 1965, the jury, having deliberated, was back. The court clerk handed the verdict slip to the judge, Howard F. Corcoran. For most observers, inside the courtroom and out, conviction — and an accompanying death sentence — was a foregone conclusion.

“Members of the jury,” Judge Corcoran said. “We have your verdict, which states that you find the defendant, Ray Crump Jr., not guilty.”

Ms. Roundtree’s defense, which hinged partly on two forensic masterstrokes, made her reputation as a litigator of acuity, concision and steel who could win even the most hopeless trials. And this in a case for which she had received a fee of one dollar.

“As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” Katie McCabe, the co-author of Ms. Roundtree’s memoir, “Justice Older Than the Law,” said in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “She was a one-woman Legal Aid Society before people used that term.”

Officer, Lawyer, Minister

Ms. Roundtree’s victory in the Crump case was not her first noteworthy accomplishment, and it was by no means her last. Born to a family of slender means in the Jim Crow South, Ms. Roundtree — or the Rev. Dovey Johnson Roundtree, as she was long formally known — was instrumental in winning a spate of advances for blacks and women in midcentury America, blazing trails in the military, the legal profession and the ministry.

As an inaugural member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps), she became, in 1942, one of the first women of any race to be commissioned an Army officer. Attaining the rank of captain, she personally recruited scores of African-American women for wartime Army service.

Ms. Roundtree in Washington about 1963, not long before she took on the greatest criminal case of her career, the United States v. Raymond Crump Jr., in which she won acquittal for a black man accused of the murder of a white Washington socialite. (Credit: via Dovey Johnson Roundtree)

As a Washington lawyer, she helped secure a landmark ban on racial segregation in interstate bus travel in a case that originated in 1952 — three years before Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat in Montgomery, Ala.

As a cleric, Ms. Roundtree was one of the first women to be ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 2009, in a statement honoring the publication of “Justice Older Than the Law,” the first lady, Michelle Obama, said, “As an Army veteran, lawyer and minister, Ms. Roundtree set a new path for the many women who have followed her and proved once again that the vision and perseverance of a single individual can help to turn the tides of history.”

Yet for all her perseverance, and all her prowess, Ms. Roundtree remained, by temperament, choice and political circumstance, comparatively unknown.

“One has to start with the fact — and I think it’s an acknowledged fact — that the civil rights movement was notoriously sexist,” Ms. McCabe said in 2016. “There were many men who did not appreciate being ground up into hamburger meat by Dovey Roundtree. There are many, many white lawyers — male — in Washington who were humiliated by having been beaten by a black woman. And I think that played out in a number of ways. And one of those ways has been a diminution in the recognition that I think her accomplishments merit.”

Continue reading “R.I.P. Dovey Johnson Roundtree, 104, Army Captain, Minister and Trailblazing Civil Rights Lawyer”

Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Overall Production Deal with Netflix

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service. The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said Barack Obama. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” said Michelle Obama. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Signing the Obamas is the latest, and by far the biggest, in a string of moves by Netflix to lock up the entertainment industry’s highest-profile producers in exclusive production and development pacts. Last year, Netflix poached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios with a deal valued at more than $100 million. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy jumped from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year to also join Netflix. Murphy’s deal was reported at the time to be worth as much as $300 million. However, sources tell Variety that tally includes money that Murphy is expected to make from his current and former Fox series over the life of his Netflix contract, and that the true value of the deal is in line with that of Rhimes’.

It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”

Among President Obama’s most visible public appearances since leaving office was on David Letterman’s new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” Obama was the first guest in the former “Late Show” host’s new long-form interview program.

Word of a possible pact between the former U.S. president and first lady surfaced in March, when the New York Times first reported that the couple was in talks with the streaming service on a deal to produce several high-profile projects.

Sarandos has a close relationship with the Obamas. His wife, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in President Obama’s first term in office.

Source: http://variety.com/2018/digital/news/barack-michelle-obama-netflix-deal-1202817723/

Veteran NBC TV Executive Vernon Sanders Named Co-Head of Amazon Studios TV

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Former NBC executive Vernon Sanders has joined Amazon Studios as co-head of television, according to Variety.com. He will oversee creative and production units for Amazon Prime Video.

Sanders will head the TV division with Albert Cheng, who was hired during a reorganization of Amazon’s entertainment division under new top executive Jennifer Salke in April.  Cheng also serves as Amazon Studios COO. “I’m thrilled to announce Vernon Sanders’ appointment to Co-Head of Television for Amazon Studios,” said Salke. “Vernon’s undeniable expertise in nurturing talent and creative material will be a huge asset to our studio. Having worked side-by-side with him for seven years at NBC Entertainment, I can speak first-hand to his talents as a leader and creative force. I know Vernon and Albert Cheng will be a formidable team as we continue to build Amazon Studios.”

At NBC Sanders held posts as executive vice president of current programming and executive vice president of comedy. He also has experience in drama-series development, having been senior VP of drama at the network and sister studio Universal Television. “I am tremendously excited to be joining Jennifer Salke, Albert Cheng and the forward-thinking team at Amazon Studios as they build an incredible destination for high-quality, compelling content,” Sanders said. “My time as a producer has reaffirmed my passion for working closely with creators to champion shows which delight and surprise our audiences. I’m grateful to my family at NBCU for their support as I jump into this new challenge.”

Among the series Sanders worked on while at NBC are “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Friday Night Lights,” “This is Us,” “The Blacklist,” “The Good Place,” and the revival of “Will and Grace.”

Samaria Rice to Open Tamir Rice Cultural Center in Cleveland in 2019

Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice (photo via ohio.com)

by Angela Helm via theroot.com

Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was gunned down on a playground by an erratic “officer of the law” in 2014, is mending her heartbreak by opening a cultural center in the name of her son.

The Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center will honor Tamir’s legacy by operating as a place of refuge for black children in Cleveland, a space where they can participate in visual art, drama, music, as well as teaching them civics as well. “Nobody is talking about Tamir anymore in Cleveland,” said Samaria. “And that’s sad.”

Through the Tamir Rice Foundation, Samaria has already purchased a building for the center, and, in addition to serving the children’s artistic ambitions (Tamir, she said, loved to draw cartoons and make pottery), the young people who come through its doors will be mentored on how to “dissect and participate in political systems,” something the 41-year-old mother of three says she had to learn, after her son was killed as he played.

Rice has already faced opposition to opening the center, a baffling notion, given what she has been through, but according to a recent profile by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, someone recently put superglue in all of the locks on the 3,500-square-foot former newspaper building.

“I don’t pay no attention to them,” she said. “They can’t beat me for the simple fact that their child wasn’t killed by the state. I’m going to do it through the grace of God and I’m going to do it because the city of Cleveland gave me no choice but to do it as far as building my son’s legacy and keeping his legacy alive.”

Next month, Rice is throwing a “Sweet Sixteen” party for the birthday Tamir will never see. She seeks to raise $21,000 to help renovate the space, including new windows, and a stage for performances. She purchased the building in March for $162,680, using part of the $6 million settlement of the wrongful death suit she’d filed against the city and the two officers involved (none of whom faced a day in jail). The Plain Dealer reports that after lawyer’s fees and costs and payments to other relatives, Tamir’s estate was left with about $1.8 million.

Samaria Rice hopes to complete work and open the center in 2019.

Tickets for June 14 fundraiser at the Cleveland Museum of Art are $55  and contributions to the renovation are also being collected online.

To read full article, go to: https://www.theroot.com/samaria-rice-to-open-tamir-rice-cultural-center-for-cle-1826177821

In Wake of Wrongful Arrests, Starbucks Announces New Policy: No Purchase Needed to Use Restrooms or Sit in Cafes

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Chicago Sun TimesStarbucks Coffee announced a new policy yesterday that allows anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even without buying anything. The new policy comes five weeks after two black men who hadn’t bought anything were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. Company executives have said its previous policies were ambiguous, leaving decisions on whether people could sit in its stores or use the restroom up to store managers. Starbucks now says it has instructed workers to consider anyone who enters its stores a customer, “regardless of whether they make a purchase.”

The company said anyone can use its cafes, patios or restrooms, but noted workers should still call the police if someone is a safety threat. “We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome,” Starbucks said in a statement.

The two men who were arrested April 12 in Philadelphia were awaiting a third person for a meeting. One of them was denied use of a restroom because he hadn’t bought anything. A worker called police, and the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested. They spent hours in jail before they were released. The incident, video of which was posted on social media, was a major embarrassment for the coffee chain.

In response to the arrests, Starbucks plans to close more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 for racial-bias training for its employees.The men who were arrested settled with Starbucks earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education. They also reached a deal with Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from city officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Born On This Day: Legendary Activist and Community Leader El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X)

by Princess Gabbara via thegrio.com

To celebrate what would have been the 93rd birthday of black nationalist and leader ElHajj Malik El-Shabazz – better known as Malcolm X – activists, comrades and relatives are coming together to salute the Civil Rights leader’s contributions to the Black community on a global level. Malcolm X’s birthday still isn’t recognized as a national holiday in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped New York City grassroots activists from recognizing May 19 as Malcolm X Day for the past 53 years.

This morning, a caravan of vehicles gathered at the corner of 126thStreet and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, and then made their way to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, where Malcolm X and his beloved wife, Betty Shabazz, are buried. Malcolm X’s sister and Organization of Afro-American Unity President Ella Collins started the 53-year-old tradition.

Later in the evening, Malcolm X’s daughters Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz are expected to take the stage and reflect on the legacy of their parents at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Educational and Memorial Center on Broadway, according to the Amsterdam News. Malcolm X was assassinated at age 39 on February 21, 1965, having been struck 16 times by a hail of bullets.

The King Center, the official living memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., commemorated Malcolm X’s birthday in a heartfelt tweet imploring revelers to celebrate the real icon, who, it says, was so much more than the villain the media and government tried to portray.

Source: Happy Birthday, Malcolm X: our shining Black prince would have been 93

Sean Combs is Revealed as Buyer of $21.1 Million Kerry James Marshall “Past Times” Painting

“Past Times” by Kerry James Marshall sold for $21.1 million on Wednesday to the music mogul Sean Combs (image via Sotheby’s)

Ever since the sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night of “Past Times,” a monumental painting by Kerry James Marshall with a narrative centered on black experiences, many people have been speculating about which collector or museum might have placed the winning $21.1 million bid. The sale was an auction high for Mr. Marshall, and it was widely reported to be the most ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.

On Thursday night, Jack Shainman, Mr. Marshall’s gallerist and dealer in New York, told The Times that the buyer was Sean Combs, the entrepreneur, fashionista, Grammy Award-winning record producer and subject of the documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story.”

“I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy — that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot,” said Mr. Shainman, who has represented Mr. Marshall since his first show at the gallery in 1993.

The dealer said Mr. Combs was introduced to the painter’s work by a friend and sometime musical collaborator, the hip-hop recording artist and record producer Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is also an avid art collector with his wife, Alicia Keys. Mr. Combs viewed the painting at Sotheby’s before the sale.

To read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/arts/sean-combs-kerry-james-marshall.html

Captain Tara Wright and First Officer Mallory Cave Make Alaska Airlines History as its 1st African-American Female Flight Crew

Captain Tara Wright and 1st Officer Mallory Cave of Alaska Airlines (photo via ktva.com)

via ktva.com

Alaska Airlines marked a milestone on Mother’s Day, as one of its West Coast flights became the first to be flown by two black women.

Tara Wright, the captain of Flight 361 from San Francisco to Portland, stepped out of the cockpit to introduce herself and first officer Mallory Cave to passengers before their Boeing 737’s Sunday takeoff.

After mentioning that Sunday was Mother’s Day, as well as her father’s 80th birthday, Wright sprung her surprise in a Facebook video.

“Finally, you’re sharing a pretty interesting piece of Alaska Airlines history this morning,” she told passengers, who began bursting into applause. “You’ll be piloted by two female African-American pilots for the first time in the airline’s history.”

Alaska Airlines – which was formed in a 1932 merger and took its current name in 1944 – subsequently shared Wright’s video to its Facebook page. Its post called the moment “history in the flying,” adding that Wright and Cave were following in the footsteps of Bessie Coleman — America’s first black woman to make a public flight in 1922.

Sunday’s flight has special relevance in the airline industry, where more than 72 percent of employees are white and 60 percent are male according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 2015 breakdown of airline data from the bureaushowed even greater diversity issues among flight crews, in which 91 percent of airline pilots and 73 percent of flight attendants were white; just 9 percent of pilots were female, versus nearly 75 percent of flight attendants.

Airline officials declined to discuss details Thursday on the racial or gender diversity of its pilot corps, which includes nearly 2,000 pilots with Alaska and almost 840 more flying with Virgin America after it was acquired by Alaska in 2016.

To read more, go to: http://www.ktva.com/story/38218189/alaska-airlines-sees-first-ever-black-female-flight-crew

Meet Sherrie Silver, 23, the Choreographer Behind Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Video

Choreographer Sherrie Silver (photo via afropunk.com)

by Cree B. McClellan via afropunk.com

Imagine if all the themes of an era were compacted in a sensory journey of rhythm, lyrical controversy, props, symbolism, and movement…. well Donald Glover has done it. His latest hit “This is America” is the whole package as it dissects the current state of a mixed nation under the tyrannical boots of discrimination, capitalism, and internalized stratification- and almost all his projects are collaborative, his work reaches volumes as it lets others shine.

One shinning contributor to the projects energy is the video’s choreographer: 23 year-old Sherrie Silver. Having danced for years, the Rwanda-born, England-bred creative initially gained traction for her “Afro-Dance” videos on Youtube, but after Glovers team reached out, her career took on a different weight.

She tells Interview: “The video is full of madness and reflects what’s going on in America and around the world right now. The kids and the choir are supposed to be the happy part of that, so there are two different worlds at the same time. Multiple parts of the video are meant to catch the viewer off-guard, with people smiling and enjoying themselves before it goes dark.”

The themes of this video, are the video- so for Silver it was important to speak to all aspects of Glovers message. By incorporating African dance like the South African ‘Gwara Gwara’, alongside Hip-Hop phenomenons like ‘Shoot’ or ‘Nae Nae’, she succeeds in illuminating the dichotomy of joy and pain- as it related to Pop Culture and its hidden state of affairs.

To read more: Meet the choreographer behind Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ video | AFROPUNK

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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