Tag: New Orleans

U.S. District Judge Rules Orleans Criminal Court Can No Longer Jail Anyone for Failing to Pay Fines or Fees Without Neutral Hearing

Carvings on the Orleans Parish Courthouse read: THE IMPARTIAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IS THE FOUNDATION OF LIBERTY. (Photo by Seth Gaines)

by  via theadvocate.com

Everyone who owes fines and fees from criminal convictions in Orleans Parish must have the chance to plead poverty in a “neutral forum” before landing in jail for failing to pay, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Barring an appeal, the ruling from U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance marks the end of a three-year legal battle over the so-called “debtors’ prison” lawsuit brought by a handful of criminal convicts who were jailed for days or longer in Orleans Parish without a chance to prove they couldn’t afford to pay the fines and fees they owed.

Vance broadened the scope of the case Thursday with a 35-page order granting class-action status to anyone who owes court-issued fines and fees now or in the future.

On Friday, Vance declared that “undisputed evidence” shows the 13 judges of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court have “a policy or practice of not inquiring into criminal defendants’ ability to pay before those individuals are imprisoned for nonpayment of court debts.”

She also declared that the judges have an “institutional conflict of interest” in making such poverty determinations themselves. That’s because the proceeds from fines and fees go directly to the court’s Judicial Expense Fund, a kitty controlled by the judges that can be used for a broad range of judicial expenses. Fines and fees have contributed about $1 million a year to the court’s coffers.

Vance ruled that the court’s failure to “provide a neutral forum for determination of such persons’ ability to pay is unconstitutional.” The decision appears to leave it up to the court to decide how to set up a mechanism for such decisions.

Vance telegraphed her final ruling with a preliminary decision on key issues in the case in December.

On Friday, she cited a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars states from arresting or detaining a defendant solely for failing to pay court costs, without determining if that failure was willful.

For years, the Orleans Parish court’s collections department — and individual judges — routinely issued arrest warrants for people who failed to pay fines and fees assessed after a conviction. Civil rights groups claimed that practice created an “unconstitutional and unjust modern debtors’ prison.”

In response to the legal attack, court officials recalled thousands of arrest warrants issued solely on the basis of unpaid fines or fees, writing off about $1 million in debts in the process.

Other warrants remain in place, such as those involving failure to appear in court or lapsed restitution payments to victims. Vance settled most of the issues from the federal lawsuit in December. But on Thursday, she ruled that her decision applies to a broad class of people: everyone who now owes money from fines and fees, and everyone who will incur those debts in the future.

However, she threw out a separate claim by the plaintiffs, who argued that it is unconstitutional to jail people who fail to pay criminal fines when those who owe fines from civil judgments don’t face the same threat.

Regardless, attorneys for the plaintiffs claimed a big win Friday.

“This is a victory for the people of New Orleans and for those committed to fixing the breaks in the criminal justice system,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“America treats being poor as a crime, disproportionately victimizing people of color. This ruling ensures that people can no longer be thrown in jail in Orleans Parish for their poverty alone.”

Read more: https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/courts/article_92c18cda-9754-11e8-8ab4-d326e5f47bbc.html

Howard University Alumni Damon Lawrence and Marcus Carey Open The Moor, a Hotel Dedicated to Black Culture

Marcus Carey and Damon Lawrence of Homage Hospitality (Photo credit: Kim Davalos)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to blavity.com, while attending Howard University, Damon Lawrence worked in the hotel industry as a front desk agent, and decided he would own his own hotels one day with one exception–his business would cater exclusively to blackness. “Black culture leads American culture and American culture leads global culture, so [we] think it’s time a hotel property reflected the best of black culture,” Lawrence.

The young entrepreneur, along with his business partner and co-founder of Homage Hospitality, Marcus Carey (also a Howard alum), opened the doors to The Moor in New Orleans, Louisiana, this week. The upscale 10-room hotel pays homage to the Moors of North Africa  through its architecture aesthetic. (You can use the promo code “Launch” through July 4th for 60% off your stay.)

Lawrence and Carey plan to open locations where black “culture is thriving;” such as Washington, D.C., Brooklyn and Detroit. The duo plans to open a 102-room property called The Town Hotel in Downtown Oakland by 2019. Even sooner, they plan to launch another property in the Treme section of New Orleans called The Freeman; it is known as the first place in the U.S. black people could purchase property.

“We want to go everywhere that culture exists and thrives, so there’s plenty on the plate”, Lawrence says.

To learn more about these men and their mission, check out their recent interview with Rolling Out.

LaToya Cantrell Elected New Orleans’ 1st Woman Mayor

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (photo via nola.com)

by Kevin McGill via abcnews.go.com

LaToya Cantrell, a City Council member who first gained a political following as she worked to help her hard-hit neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina, won a historic election Saturday that made her the first woman mayor of New Orleans.

The Democrat will succeed term-limited fellow Democrat Mitch Landrieu as the city celebrates its 300th anniversary next year. “Almost 300 years, my friends. And New Orleans, we’re still making history,” Cantrell told a cheering crowd in her victory speech. The leader in most polls before the runoff election, she never trailed as votes were counted.

Her opponent, former municipal Judge Desiree Charbonnet, conceded the race and congratulated Cantrell late Saturday. Later, complete returns showed Cantrell with 60 percent of the vote. “I do not regret one moment of anything about this campaign,” Charbonnet said. The two women led a field of 18 candidates in an October general election to win runoff spots.

Landrieu earned credit for accelerating the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in an administration cited for reduced blight, improvements in the celebrated tourism economy and economic development that included last week’s announcement that a digital services company is bringing 2,000 new jobs to the city.

Cantrell entered the race as the perceived front-runner, leading in fundraising and in various polls. She had an 11 percentage point lead in a poll released last week by the University of New Orleans. It showed 46 percent of 602 voters surveyed from Nov. 1-8 favored Cantrell over Charbonnet, who had 35 percent; 20 percent were undecided. Former state civil court Judge Michael Bagneris, who finished third in last month’s race, endorsed Cantrell, as did Troy Henry, a businessman who also ran for the post last month.

UNO political science professor Edward Chervenak said the endorsements appeared to help Cantrell overcome revelations that she had used her city-issued credit card for thousands of dollars in purchases without clear indications that they were for public purposes. The money was eventually reimbursed but questions lingered about whether she had improperly used city money for personal or campaign expenditures.

Voters also made history in a New Orleans City Council race.

Cyndi Nguyen defeated incumbent James Gray in an eastern New Orleans district. An immigrant who fled Vietnam with her family when she was 5 in 1975, Nguyen is the organizer of a nonprofit and will be the first Vietnamese-American to serve on the council.

To read full article, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/latoya-cantrell-orleans-1st-female-mayor-51252667

R.I.P Fats Domino, 89, Musical Legend, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and New Orleans Native

Mr. Domino performing in 2007 on NBC’s “Today” show. (Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP)

Jon Pareles and William Grimes via nytimes.com

Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer whose two-fisted boogie-woogie piano and nonchalant vocals, heard on dozens of hits, made him one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, has died in Louisiana. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his brother-in-law and former road manager Reggie Hall, who said he had no other details. Mr. Domino lived in Harvey, La., across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. Mr. Domino had more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits through the 1950s and early ’60s, among them “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame” (also known as “Ain’t That a Shame,” which is the actual lyric), “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.”

Throughout he displayed both the buoyant spirit of New Orleans, his hometown, and a droll resilience that reached listeners worldwide.He sold 65 million singles in those years, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley as a commercial force. Presley acknowledged Mr. Domino as a predecessor. “A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Presley told Jet magazine in 1957. “But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that music like colored people. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

Fats Domino in 1956 (Photo: Associated Press)

Rotund and standing 5 feet 5 inches — he would joke that he was as wide as he was tall — Mr. Domino had a big, infectious grin, a fondness for ornate, jewel-encrusted rings and an easygoing manner in performance; even in plaintive songs his voice had a smile in it. And he was a master of the wordless vocal, making hits out of songs full of “woo-woos” and “la-las.”Working with the songwriter, producer and arranger David Bartholomew, Mr. Domino and his band carried New Orleans parade rhythms into rock ’n’ roll and put a local stamp on nearly everything they touched, even country tunes like “Jambalaya” or big-band songs like “My Blue Heaven” and “When My Dreamboat Comes Home.”

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots. He grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he spent most of his life.Music filled his life from the age of 10, when his family inherited an old piano. After his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett, a traditional-jazz musician, wrote down the notes on the keys and taught him a few chords, Antoine threw himself at the instrument — so enthusiastically that his parents moved it to the garage.

He was almost entirely self-taught, picking up ideas from boogie-woogie masters like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith and Amos Milburn. “Back then I used to play everybody’s records; everybody’s records who made records,” he told the New Orleans music magazine Offbeat in 2004. “I used to hear ’em, listen at ’em five, six, seven, eight times and I could play it just like the record because I had a good ear for catchin’ notes and different things.” He attended the Louis B. Macarty School but dropped out in the fourth grade to work as an iceman’s helper. “In the houses where people had a piano in their rooms, I’d stop and play,” he told USA Today in 2007. “That’s how I practiced.”

In his teens, he started working at a club called the Hideaway with a band led by the bassist Billy Diamond, who nicknamed him Fats. Mr. Domino soon became the band’s frontman and a local draw.“Fats was breaking up the place, man,” Mr. Bartholomew told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010. “He was singing and playing the piano and carrying on. Everyone was having a good time. When you saw Fats Domino, it was ‘Let’s have a party!’ ”He added: “My first impression was a lasting impression. He was a great singer. He was a great artist. And whatever he was doing, nobody could beat him.”

In 1947 Mr. Domino married Rosemary Hall, and they had eight children, Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Anonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola and Adonica. His wife died in 2008. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

To read more, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/obituaries/fats-domino-89-one-of-rock-n-rolls-first-stars-is-dead.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Five Xavier University Students Rush to Save Crash Victim as Live Wire Sparked a Few Feet Away

Xavier University local heroes (photo via fox8live.com)

by Brian Naquin via fox8live.com

A bloodstained shoe served as a reminder of just how dangerous the rescue near Xavier University‘s campus was Monday night. “Without us, he probably would have bled out and stayed in the car until the police got there,” Markevion Kennebrew said. Just before 10 p.m., Kennebrew, Moses Michael, Ronald  Haroon, Demetrious Brown and another Xavier student selflessly sprung into action after a man smashed his sedan into a utility pole then crashed upside on the embankment of the drainage canal along Washington Avenue in New Orleans.

“I told my friend I think someone is there. We just got to help then I saw these two guys,” Michael said as he pointed at Brown and Haroon. “[The driver] was like ‘please help’ and I don’t know how you can turn you back away from that,” Haroon said. “We actually made a chain and one person was holding onto the wall because it’s really steep. Dom, that’s the guy who is not here right now, he gave me his jacket and we had to pull the door open and we helped [the driver] up.”

The rescue was not only daring because of the steep embankment and mangled car below them but also because a live-electric wire that sparked in the water just feet away. “The car could have slid down in the water. He could have gotten shocked,” Brown said. “But I feel like it’s our public duty to help people in need. We weren’t thinking (about the wire). We were just thinking to get him out and get him on the street and make sure whoever’s in the car is alright.”

“I know my mom is going to be like you could have been shocked as well,” Kennebrew said. “My mom will probably be mad that I went down there but she’s still going to be happy that I helped people out just being there.”The crash knocked out power to much of the area. Emergency crews rushed the driver to the hospital. The students said he was bleeding from his head and had a large gash on his arm but was able to speak.

Before the rescue, Kennebrew and Michael did not know Brown nor Haroon and vice versa.  But after Monday, their bond formed along a dark canal is something that will never be swept away.”Once we heard someone was in there, I just think all four of us realized what we had to do,” Haroon said.

To see video of these young heroes, go to: Five Xavier students rush to save crash victim as a live wire sp – FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Essence Unveils Night-By-Night Schedule for 2017 Concert Series at Superdome this Summer

 article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The 2017 ESSENCE Festival has announced the all-star, night-by-night schedule for its concert series, from June 30 to July 2 at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Single-night tickets are now on sale and are priced starting at $50 per person per night.

The concerts will feature more than 40 acts across five stages in the Superdome throughout the weekend on the festival’s renowned Mainstage and in the intimate Superlounges. Festival first-timers Diana Ross and Chance the Rapper will open and close the weekend concert series with headlining performances on Friday and Sunday night respectively – along with a special all-female Saturday night lineup, inspired by headliner Mary J. Blige’s forthcoming album Strength of A Woman.

Other well-known performers in this year’s line-up include John Legend, india.arie, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan and Solange.

Roy Wood Jr. from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” will serve as the Mainstage host for the weekend, with more surprise guest performances to be announced.

For more information about ticket sales and accommodations and for the latest news about the ESSENCE Festival®, visit www.essencefestival.com, join the festival community by following us on Twitter @essencefest #EssenceFest and become a fan of 2017 ESSENCE Festival® on Facebook.

Solange Knowles Writes Insightful, Personal Essay on Racial Discrimination

Solange Knowles
Solange Knowles (photo via solangemusic.com)
article by Lesa Lakin
by Lesa Lakin, Lifestyle Editor

Today I woke up to a Facebook post that my roommate from college shared on her feed. Her response to that tauntingly generic Facebook encouragement— “What’s on your mind?” seemed a little more perturbed, urgent and determined than usual: “This is a must read! #blacklivesmatter #takeaknee and if u don’t like my hashtags feel free to unfollow me.”  Whoa… okay, she had my attention. I found my glasses and I was in. The share was an essay by Solange Knowles about her recent experience with racial discrimination at a Kraftwerk concert.

The essay is entitled “And Do You Belong? I Do…”,  and the title is a pretty good indication of what follows. Here we go, I thought… I am about to read about how someone had caused Beyoncé’s sister to feel some type of way. I knew it would be a truthful expression of Solange having to deal with some, well… ignorant mess. I’ve certainly been there. This was going to be a level of discrimination probably more than the norm though, because why else make such an effort to share?

Solange’s essay is thought-provoking and definitely worth the read. She is insightful and honest about her past experiences with racial discrimination, as well as her recent encounter while trying to dance and enjoy music with her family.

Though the content of the post is not surprising – again, so many of us have been there – the trash throwing did surprise me. (Yes, someone throws trash at Solange and her family.) Really?? It was taken there??? But instead of responding in the moment in a way that likely would have brought negative attention to her and her family, I have to applaud Solange for instead turning to Twitter, then laying it out there again in writing, as well as covering the anticipated naysayers with intelligent responses.

Here is her essay in its entirety:

http://saintheron.com/featured/and-do-you-belong-i-do/

In light of GBN’s own essay on personal discrimination:

http://goodblacknews.org/2016/07/14/editorial-what-i-said-when-my- white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/

We are reminded by her action that knowledge is power, well-chosen words are power, and speaking up in protest is power. I think it’s important that she bravely lays it out there for the world to hear.

Thank you, Solange.

2016 ESSENCE Festival Lineup Revealed: Kendrick Lamar, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, and More!

ESSENCE Festival 2016article by Taylor Lewis via essence.com

It’s four months out from this year’s ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans, and ESSENCE has just revealed its first look at the 2016 lineup.

For the 22nd year, ESSENCE Fest is bringing sure-to-be-lit nighttime concerts featuring more than 30 of today’s hottest hip-hop and R&B stars. This year’s lineup is a mix of old and new: soul and R&B, hip hop and pop—from Kendrick Lamar to Mariah Carey to Maxwell to Lion Babe.

“The ESSENCE Festival is back in New Orleans with an extraordinary roster of the biggest names and best performers in entertainment—from global music icons to the industry’s rising stars,” said ESSENCE President Michelle Ebanks. “We are welcoming Mariah Carey, Kendrick Lamar and Maxwell to headline the Superdome main stage. In addition, we will be embracing newcomers like Leon Bridges, Jeremih, Lion Babe, Dej Loaf and The Internet, as well as fan favorite Charlie Wilson for the ultimate cultural experience in New Orleans this July 4th weekend.”

Click through to see a full list of performers, and be sure to check back for updates.

Get your tickets here.

To read original article, go to: http://www.essence.com/2016/03/01/2016-essence-festival-lineup-revealed-kendrick-mariah-maxwell-oh-my

HBO Drops Teaser for ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill’ Starring Audra McDonald (VIDEO)

"Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill"
Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday in HBO’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” (photo via blogs.indiewire.com)

Audra McDonald brings her acclaimed portrayal of Billie Holiday in the Broadway smash “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” to HBO, with the exclusive presentation scheduled to debut Saturday, March 12, 2016.

Filmed before a live audience at Cafe Brasil in New Orleans, the special features McDonald in her history-making, tour de force performance as the jazz icon.

Originally written for off-Broadway by Lanie Roberston in 1987, the production tells Holiday’s life story through the songs that made her famous, including “God Bless the Child,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Strange Fruit” and “Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness.”

McDonald made history and became Broadway’s most decorated performer when she won her sixth Tony Award, for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” in 2014. In addition to setting the record for most competitive wins by an actor, she also became the first person to receive awards in all four acting categories. The show’s run at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway was extended four times due to high demand.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” is directed by Lonny Price, who also directed the Broadway production, and produced by Allen Newman and Two Hands Entertainment. It was originally produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jessica Genick and Will Trice.

The special will also be available on HBO NOW and HBO GO.

The network has released a first teaser which is embedded below:

article by Tambay A. Obenson via Shadow and Act

Rutina Wesley Cast in Ava DuVernay’s new OWN Series “Queen Sugar”

452766992-actress-rutina-wesley-attends-entertainment-weeklys
Retina Wesley (ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES)

It’s been almost two years since HBO’s True Blood aired its series finale, but Rutina Wesley is still a familiar face to many people, and now Wesley has been tapped to star in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming OWN series, Queen Sugar.

Adapted from the novel written by Natalie BaszileQueen Sugar tells the story of Nova Bordelon (Wesley), a journalist-activist based in New Orleans, whose life is turned upside down when her sister returns to Louisiana from Los Angeles to help run the family’s sugarcane farm. DuVernay is writing and directing the series, and Oprah Winfrey will also make a few guest appearances.

Earlier this year, Winfrey and DuVernay discussed how the series came to be.

“I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,” said Winfrey. “The story’s themes of reinventing your life, parenting alone, family connections and conflicts, and building new relationships are what I believe will connect our viewers to this show.”

“From the moment I was introduced to the book, I was captivated by the idea of a modern woman wrestling with identity, family, culture and the echoes of history,” DuVernay added. “To bring this kind of storytelling to life alongside Oprah for her network is wildly wonderful. I’m excited about what’s in store.”

article by Yesha Callahan via theroot.com