Leo Branton Jr., a civil rights and entertainment lawyer whose stirring defense of ’60s radical Angela Davis brought him his most celebrated victory in a six-decade career often spent championing unpopular cases, died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91. His death was confirmed by his son Tony Nicholas.
Branton, the only African-American graduate of Northwestern University’s law school in 1948, helped singer Nat King Cole integrate an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, defended Communists in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and won misconduct cases against the Los Angeles Police Department decades before Rodney King became a household name.
“He was a hero of mine,” said Connie Rice, a prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney who helped lead efforts to reform the LAPD after the King beating. “All the things I’ve done, Leo Branton did 50 years before I even thought about going to law school. He saw himself not as a private practitioner out to make money for himself but as a lawyer with the skills to be a champion for black liberation.”
Danai Gurira, best known for her role of Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead, has been awarded the Whiting Writers Award.
For those who may not be familiar, Danai Gurira, who made her Broadway debut in 2010 in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson, is an accomplished playwright in her own right. She co-wrote In the Continuum with Nikkole Salter which received the Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for writing. Gurira also received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance in In The Contiuum. Other work written by Gurira includes Eclipsed and The Convert.
Another woman of color honored was Sharifa Rhodes-Pitt a non-fiction writer. She graduated from Harvard and was a Fulbright Scholar.
Fagbenle becomes the fifth Olympian in Ivy League Basketball history(Ahmed Photography).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Rising sophomore Temi Fagbenle has been named to Great Britain’s 12-woman roster for the 2012 London Olympic Games, becoming just the second Olympian in Ivy League women’s basketball history.
Fagbenle has helped Great Britain to a 6-6 record through 12 test matches during its Olympic tune up, averaging 10.5 points and 4.4 rebounds. GB most recently defeated the world’s fourth-ranked team, Czech Republic, on June 20 with Fagbenle netting 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a starting role. GB has also beaten ninth-ranked Korea, 11th-ranked Canada and 12th-ranked Argentina. Great Britain began its training camp on May 5 with 20 women invited to compete for a roster spot. The team went through two rounds of cuts before the final 12-woman squad was announced. GB is scheduled to play seven more test matches before the Games begin.
Great Britain, as host, received an automatic qualification to this year’s Olympic women’s basketball competition. The tournament is set to begin on Saturday, July 28 and will run through Sunday, Aug. 12. All games will be played at the newly built Basketball Arena and the North Greenwich Arena. Fagbenle is only the second Olympian in Ivy League women’s basketball history and just the fifth basketball Olympian in the Ancient Eight’s storied history. She joins Brown’s Martina Jerant (Canda, 1996), Princeton’s Bill Bradley (United States, 1964) and Konrad Wysocki (Germany, 2008), and Dartmouth’s Crawford Palmer (France, 2000).
Fagbenle matriculated to Camrbridge this past fall as the program’s first-ever McDonald’s All-American after concluding an incredibly successful high school career. She was ranked 13th overall in the Class of 2011 by ESPN HoopGurlz, and was the fifth ranked forward on the list. She led Great Britain’s U18 National Team to the 2010 Women’s European Championship, and was named Great Britain’s U18 Player of the Year as a result. As a senior at Blair Academy, she was named the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year after guiding her team to the state and MAPL championships . After sitting a year in residency, Fagbenle will enter the 2012-13 season as a sophomore at Harvard.
David Boone used to sleep on this bench in Artha Woods Park when he had nowhere else to go. Next fall, the senior at Cleveland’s MC2STEM High School is headed to Harvard.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — David Boone had a system. There wasn’t much the then-15-year-old could do about the hookers or drug deals around him when he slept in Artha Woods Park. And the spectator’s bench at the park’s baseball diamond wasn’t much of a bed.
But the aspiring engineer, now 18 and headed to Harvard University in the fall, had no regular home. Though friends, relatives and school employees often put him up, there were nights when David had no place to go, other than the park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
So he says he made the best of those nights on the wooden bench.
His book bag became his pillow, stuffed with textbooks first — for height, he says — and papers on top for padding.
In the morning, David would duck into his friend Eric’s house after Eric’s parents left early for work so he could shower and dress before heading to class at Cleveland’s specialized MC2STEM High School. David expects to graduate from there next month as salutatorian of the new school’s first graduating class.
“I’d do my homework in a rapid station, usually Tower City since they have heat, and I’d stay wherever I could find,” he said.
If you meet David Boone today, his gentle, confident demeanor and easygoing laugh betray no cockiness over racking up a college acceptance record that others brag about for him. He was accepted at 22 of the 23 schools he applied to — including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown and Penn.
He also gives no hint of the often harsh and nomadic life he has led. The medical problems he faced as a boy, a splintered family, being homeless — it all could have left him bitter and angry.
But David says that giving up would have left himstuck in a dead-end life, so it was never an option.
“I didn’t know what the results of not giving up were going to be, but it was better than nothing and having no advantages,” he said. “I wanted to be in a position to have options to do what I want to do.”
Harvard Professor and author Annette Gordon-Reed, 51, whose book “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” (W. W. Norton) won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History and the 2008 National Book Award for nonfiction, is among the 23 recipients of the $500,000 “genius awards” to be announced on Tuesday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ms. Gordon-Reed investigated the story of the slave family that included Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson who scholars widely believe bore his children. A New Yorker, Ms. Gordon-Reed teaches law and history at Harvard. Some of her grant will go toward travel expenses as she researches another book on the Hemings, she said.
Twelve men and 11 women, ranging in age from 30 to 72, were named MacArthur fellows this year. All will receive $100,000 a year for five years, no strings attached. Since the inception of the program in 1981 and including this year’s fellows, 828 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named.
M. Lee Pelton, a Harvard-educated scholar of English and poetry, was named Emerson College’s next president yesterday, becoming the school’s first African-American president and one of a handful of black college leaders in the state.
Pelton, president of Willamette University in Salem, Ore., and a national authority on diversity within academia, will join the arts and communication college in downtown Boston at a time when it is working to overcome criticism about its dearth of black-tenured faculty. “Diversity is not an add-on, but really is core to the academic mission of institutions that thrive on having diverse points of view, divergent backgrounds, and different ethnic heritages come together,’’ Pelton said in an interview yesterday. “We need to make some progress in that area.’’ Emerson drew criticism last year after denying promotions to two black professors who later filed discrimination complaints. The shortage of black and Hispanic faculty is a challenge facing all of the most prominent universities in the Boston area, according to a Globe survey of 10 colleges earlier this year.
Pelton, 59, will succeed Jacqueline Liebergott when she retires in July 2011, after leading the college for 18 years. Liebergott, Emerson’s first female president, was responsible for moving the college from its aging facilities in the Back Bay to the edge of Boston Common and revitalizing the city’s historic theater district, once riddled with adult book stores and other seedy businesses. Peter Meade, chairman of Emerson’s board of trustees, said yesterday that Pelton was chosen for his experience, intellect, and passion. “Lee is the total package,’’ Meade said. “In terms of diversity, we are about average in Boston, which is not where we want to be,’’ Meade said. “It was one of the things that was clearly a priority, and we asked every candidate about it.’’ At Emerson, minorities made up 20 percent of the tenure-line professors last year.
Pelton has managed to increase student and faculty diversity at Willamette during his 12-year tenure. The number of minority students at the 1,850-student university jumped from 10 percent of the student body when Pelton arrived in 1998 to 25 percent this year, he said; the school now has the largest percentage of minority students of any four-year college in the Pacific Northwest. The number of minority professors also doubled under Pelton’s leadership, rising from 7 percent to 14 percent of the 296-member faculty in the last seven years, according to a Willamette spokesman. If, during the course of a search for a specialist in a particular field, a department discovered a promising minority candidate in a different field, Pelton said, he would allow faculty to invite the candidate for an interview to fill a role the department had not originally been seeking.
Pelton also started a fellowship program for minority graduate students from across the nation to spend two years at Willamette to finish their dissertations, teach a couple of courses, and increase the employment pipeline for the college. At Emerson, Pelton said he will consider similar initiatives, as well as forge alliances with local organizations involved in preparing minority and low-income students for college, and strengthen the school’s admissions outreach. In addition to making diversity a priority, Pelton said he will take up the board’s goal of protecting and expanding Emerson’s identity.
“Emerson is an exciting, cutting-edge college of communication and arts,’’ Pelton said. “I am passionate about the arts. I am deeply engaged in what I call the techno-cultural revolution that we are in. And I believe that Emerson has the capacity to be an intellectual and academic leader in both of these areas.’’ Meade said he hopes Emerson will have a larger international presence under Pelton’s leadership. It has already begun to forge partnerships with institutions in China, South Korea, and Japan, he said. “We need to be at the cutting edge of the communications revolution that is taking place every day, and I believe we’ve chosen a president who understands and embraces that,’’ Meade said.
In a speech to faculty and students yesterday in Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre, Pelton said he was drawn to the university in part because of his daughter, who is a junior this year. “Today, I stand here as an extreme representative example of that thing which college and university presidents most dread and loathe: the helicopter parent, one who not only hovers nosily above presidential offices, but actually, in my case, moves to college with his firstborn child,’’ Pelton said. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Pelton graduated magna cum laude with degrees in English and psychology from Wichita State University in 1974, focusing on 19th century British prose and poetry. He holds a doctorate from Harvard University, where he taught English and once served on the board of overseers. He was also a college dean at Colgate University and Dartmouth College, prior to assuming the Willamette presidency.