Tag: Missouri

U.S. Justice Department Sues Ferguson, Mo., to Force Police Reform

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ce Department (Photo via newsweek.com)
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Photo via newsweek.com)

article by Stephan A. Crockett, Jr. via theroot.com

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Mo., after the City Council voted Tuesday to change the terms of a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to the city’s embattled Police Department.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said, according to ABC News. “They have waited nearly a year for their Police Department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights. … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Department last year after the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was not charged in the shooting, but the Justice Department investigation found “systemic and systematic racial bias within the force’s policing practices,” ABC reports.

The findings of the investigation were announced last year, and the city of Ferguson and the Justice Department began negotiations that ABC notes lasted 26 weeks, seeking an agreement that would address the Justice Department’s findings.

In January it was announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement that was set to include a complete overhaul of basic policing practices, including “how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations,” among other significant changes, the Associated Press reports.

ABC notes that Ferguson leaders, however, had always balked at the tentative agreement, which they estimated would cost the city $3.7 million during the first year alone.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson Has Figured Out How to Make School Work for Low-Income Kids in Jennings, MO

— School districts don’t usually operate homeless shelters for their students. Nor do they often run food banks or have a system in place to provide whatever clothes kids need. Few offer regular access to pediatricians and mental health counselors, or make washers and dryers available to families desperate to get clean.

But the Jennings School District — serving about 3,000 students in a low-income, predominantly African-American jurisdiction just north of St. Louis — does all of these things and more. When Superintendent Tiffany Anderson arrived here 3 1/2 years ago, she was determined to clear the barriers that so often keep poor kids from learning. And her approach has helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in Jennings, which has long been among the lowest-performing school districts in Missouri.

“Schools can do so much to really impact poverty,” Anderson said. “Some people think if you do all this other stuff, it takes away from focusing on instruction, when really it ensures that you can take kids further academically.”

Public education has long felt like a small and fruitless weapon against this town’s generational poverty. But that’s starting to change. Academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates have improved since Anderson’s arrival, and, this month, state officials announced that as a result of the improvements, Jennings had reached full accreditation for the first time in more than a decade.

Gwen McDile, a homeless 17-year-old in Jennings, missed so much school this fall — nearly one day in three — that it seemed she would be unlikely to graduate in June. But then she was invited to move into Hope House, a shelter the school system recently opened to give students like her a stable place to live.

She arrived a few days after Thanksgiving. The 3,000-square-foot house had a private bedroom for Gwen, who loves writing and poetry; a living room with a plush sofa she could sink into; and — perhaps most importantly — a full pantry.

She’s no longer hungry. She has been making it to class. She believes she will graduate on time.

“I’ve eaten more in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last two years,” Gwen said on a recent afternoon, after arriving home from school and digging into a piece of caramel chocolate. “I’m truly blessed to be in the situation I’m in right now.” Continue reading “Superintendent Tiffany Anderson Has Figured Out How to Make School Work for Low-Income Kids in Jennings, MO”

Ferguson, U.S. Department of Justice Near Deal to Reform Police Department

US-POLICE-RACISM-UNREST

Nine months after the United States Justice Department released a damning report detailing the racial biased practices of the Ferguson Police Department, the Missouri city and DOJ officials are nearing a reform deal that will likely effect change and overhaul what has been called “unconstitutional” policing.

The report, released earlier this year, was prompted by the death of Michael Brown — a Black Ferguson teenager who was fatally shot by former police officer Darren Wilson. Last November, a grand jury elected not to indict Wilson on criminal charges.

According to the New York Times, the agreement is set to include new training for officers and new-improved record keeping. But the changes won’t come easy or cheap, the Times notes.

Completing the deal, however, will require support from diverse factions of Ferguson’s leadership, which will have to sell residents on the idea of a federal policing monitor and of huge new expenses for a city that is already struggling financially. Some officials said a local tax increase appears unavoidable, which in Missouri requires approval from voters…

The two sides have been negotiating for several months, after a scathing Justice Department report in March described Ferguson as a city where police officers often stop and arrest people without cause, where the court operates as a moneymaking venture, and where officers used excessive force almost exclusively against blacks.

The deal’s anticipated close was confirmed by Mayor James Knowles III, who, in a telephone interview, told the Times the city has made “tremendous progress.”

“We’re at a point where we have addressed any necessary issues, and assuming it is not cost prohibitive, we would like to move forward,” Mr. Knowles said.

“The talks with the city of Ferguson to develop a monitored consent decree have been productive,” Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The department believes that in order to remedy the Justice Department’s findings, an agreement needs to be reached without delay.”

The agreement would allow the city to avoid a lawsuit from the Justice Department.

article via newsone.com

University of Missouri Taps Michael Middleton as Interim President

University of Missouri Interim President Michael Middleton (photo via
University of Missouri Interim President Michael Middleton (photo via latimes.com)

COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) — One of the University of Missouri’s first black law school graduates was appointed Thursday to lead the four-campus system through a tumultuous period of racial unrest, drawing praise from students who said he’s well-equipped to confront the problems they felt his predecessor largely ignored.

Michael Middleton, 68, has spent 30 years at the university — as an undergraduate, law student, faculty member and finally, administrator. At a news conference announcing his appointment as the university system’s interim president, he vowed to take on the racial problems that inspired the protests that helped force Monday’s abrupt resignation of President Tim Wolfe and another top administrator.

Middleton takes over as black student groups, calling for change over the administration’s handling of racial issues, were given a boost last weekend when 30 black football players vowed not to take part in team activities until Wolfe was gone.

Middleton said the university “has faced its share of troubling incidents and we recognize that we must move forward as a community. We must embrace these issues as they come, and they will come to define us in the future.”

article by Summer Ballentine and Alan Scher Zagier, AP via thegrio.com

Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Jim Salter in St. Louis and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

Minority Business Development Agency Puts $7.7 Million Toward New Business Centers

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), is the only federal agency dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority-owned businesses. MBDA recently launched a search for prospective partners to operate their newly improved business center program.

Under the new program, the nationwide business center network is more integrated, places more emphasis on collaboration, and was designed to ensure the quality and consistency of service delivery throughout their nationwide network of business centers.

For-profit entities, non-profit organizations, state and local governments, and educational intuitions are all encouraged to apply. MBDA plans to award five individual cooperative agreements to operate MBDA Business Centers beginning in September 2016. The awards will cover a 5-year period and total $1.5 million annually for each center. The Centers will be located in Baltimore, Maryland, Boston, Massachusetts, Manhattan, New York, Pasadena, California, and St. Louis, Missouri.

“The success of minority-owned businesses is vital to the U.S. economy. These Centers will help our inventors, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs remain on the cutting edge at the speed required in the 21st century,” said MBDA National Director, Alejandra Y. Castillo in a statement.

MBDA is looking for organizations to deliver business consulting services to minority-owned firms, providing them increased access to public and private sector contracting opportunities, financing, and capital investments. Successful applicants will be those that have experience in assisting minority firms with obtaining large scale contracts and financial transactions; accessing corporate supply chains; facilitating joint ventures, teaming arrangements, mergers, and acquisitions; inducting export transactions; and performing minority business advocacy.

article by Carolyn M. Brown via blackenterprise.com

Michael Brown Remembered With March, Moment of Silence on 1-Year Anniversary

483409170-michael-brown-sr-leads-a-march-from-the-location-where_1
Michael Brown Sr. leads a march on August 8, 2015 in Ferguson, Mo. (SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES)

One year after unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white ex-officer in Ferguson, Mo., family and activists gathered Sunday to commemorate the shooting that touched off a movement against police violence.

Scores gathered Sunday to participate in 4.5 minutes of silence, and a silent march to Greater St. Mark’s church, according to The Associated Press. The march was scheduled to get just before noon at the site where Wilson gunned down Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. “A grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November,” writes the news outlet.

The events are among several this weekend in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis.

The still grieving Michael Brown Sr., Brown’s father, led a march of about 100 people on Saturday. He called for a nonviolent weekend.  “I want to have a peaceful weekend,” said Brown, according to KSDK. “No drama, no stupidity.”

In a recent NPR interview at the White House, part of which aired Sunday, President Obama told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that had Ferguson flared up in his first term, he would have addressed it, brushing back criticism that he failed to address issues of race after entering office.

“That I don’t buy,” Obama told NPR.”I think it’s fair to say that if, in my first term, Ferguson had flared up, as president of the United States, I would have been commenting on what was happening in Ferguson.”

Read more at Yahoo NewsKSDK and NPR.

article by Lynette Holloway via theroot.com

Deborah Johnson is the 1st African American to Win the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

johnson-deborahDeborah Johnson was selected to receive the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The prize is administered by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal.  Johnson is the first woman and the first African American to win the prize.

HarperLee-PrizeJohnson will be recognized September 3 at a ceremony held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She is being honored for her book The Secret of Magic (G.P Putnam & Sons, 2014). The novel is the story about a young woman attorney who works for Thurgood Marshall in 1946. She is asked to investigate the murder of a young Black war hero in Mississippi.

Johnson is a native of Missouri but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. She currently resides in Columbus, Mississippi.

article via jbhe.com

Comedian and Activist Dick Gregory to be Honored with Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

dick gregory (walk of fame)The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has announced that comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory will be honored with the 2,542nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday, February 2, 2015.

The star in the category of Live Theatre/Performance will be dedicated at 1650 Vine Street near Hollywood & Vine.

“We are proud to honor Dick Gregory with a star on the Walk of Fame during Black History month. He has given so much to the world with his wisdom through his work in entertainment,” stated Leron Gubler, President of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and emcee of the ceremonies.

The star ceremony will be streamed live exclusively on www.walkoffame.com

The day after the ceremony the celebration will continue with the Dick Gregory & Friends All Star Tribute and Toast on Tuesday, February 3, at 8:00 p.m. at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1615 N. Vine Street in Hollywood.

Richard Claxton Gregory aka Dick Gregory is a comedian, civil rights activist, author, recording artist, actor, philosopher and anti-drug crusader. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gregory, 82, began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid-1950s. He was drafted in 1954 while attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After being discharged in 1956, with a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago.

Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar. Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for comedian Professor Irwin Corey.

By 1962, Gregory had become a nationally-known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums. Gregory, whose style was detached, ironic, and satirical, gained the attention of audiences with his political and controversial stand up acts. By being both outspoken and provocative, he became a household name and opened many doors for Black entertainers.

Continue reading “Comedian and Activist Dick Gregory to be Honored with Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame”

President Obama Requests $263 Million For Ferguson, Police Body Cameras

uptown_barack_obama_2014

President Barack Obama asked Congress for $263 million to contain the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and improve police departments with better training and new body camera equipment.

Ferguson Police Department to Seek More Black Recruits; No Severance for Darren Wilson

March from Ferguson to Jefferson City
NAACP members and supporters pass by an auto parts store in Ferguson, Mo., that was destroyed by rioters as they walk Saturday on the first day of a planned seven-day, 120-mile march to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City, Missouri’s capital. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Knowles spoke at a news conference a day after Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, resigned from the police force. Wilson did not receive severance pay, Knowles said.

Also Sunday, the White House announced that President Obama would hold several Ferguson-related events Monday.  Obama will meet with his Cabinet to discuss federal programs and funding that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.  Then he will meet with civil rights leaders and later with law enforcement officials and community and faith leaders “to discuss how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust,” the White House said.

In Ferguson, the mayor said that adding a civilian review board and recruiting more African Americans would help improve the predominantly white police department’s relationship with Ferguson’s predominantly African American residents.

“We are committed to rebuilding our city,” Knowles said. “And a part of that is having officers invested in the community.”

In addition, Knowles said, the city will unveil a program in public schools that will aim to forge a bond between police officers and young people.

“We are here for you and will not leave you,” Knowles told residents.

For much of the last week, sometimes-violent protests have roiled the St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 after the grand jury’s decision.

When Wilson resigned Saturday, he said in a letter that he was told his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk.”

“It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal,” Wilson wrote. “I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process.”

Wilson’s lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, said the officer had resigned after learning of threats of violence against other officers and the department.  Knowles said Sunday he was unaware of any specific threats to Wilson and did not give him a deadline for a resignation.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Sunday he would not resign, despite widespread criticism from protesters and calls for him to step down.  “My focus has been on safety and security of citizens,” Jackson said. “I report to the leadership of Ferguson. I’m concerned about the city. I will not resign.”

Jackson said he spoke with Wilson last week and was unaware of any specific threats to him. But Jackson added, “It’s been a threatening environment all along. Everybody knows that.”

Separately, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing Brown’s family, said Sunday that Wilson’s resignation was no surprise.

“The family will pursue all the legal avenues,” Crump told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Crump said a wrongful-death lawsuit could be filed in the near future.

Continue reading “Ferguson Police Department to Seek More Black Recruits; No Severance for Darren Wilson”