Ernest J. Grant has been elected president of American Nurses Association. When he takes office on January 1, he will be the first man to serve as president of the organization that represents nearly 4 million registered nurses in the United States, about 90 percent of whom are women.
Dr. Grant is an internationally recognized burn care and fire safety expert and oversees the nationally acclaimed North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where he works with undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the classroom and clinical settings.
Dr. Grant, who has been affiliated with the University of North Carolina Hospitals for 36 years, will step down from his posts at the University of North Carolina in order to devote his attention to his duties as president of the American Nurses Association.
A native of Swannanoa, North Carolina, Dr. Grant completed the licensed practical nurse program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. He went on to earn bachelor’s degree in nursing at North Carolina Central University in Durham. Dr. Grant earned a master’s degree in nursing education and a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Jaki Shelton Green, an instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was named the ninth poet laureate of the state of North Carolina. She is the third woman and the first African American to hold the position.
In making the announcement of Green’s appointment, North Carolina Governor Roy Copper said that “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature. Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”
In 2014, Green was inducted into the state’s Literary Hall of Fame and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2009, she served as the North Carolina Piedmont Laureate. In 2016, Green served as the writer-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina.
Green has penned eight books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies, and written one play. Her poetry collections include Dead on Arrival(Carolina Wren Press, 1983) and Breath of the Song(Carolina Wren Press, 2005).
Musician Nina Simone passed away in 2003 at 70 years old, but her legacy survives. A 2015 documentary on her life, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, received an Oscar nomination and her influence has touched everyone from Lauryn Hill to Mary J. Blige.
Now the icon is receiving a huge honor. Her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina will be designated a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Her home is now a vacant wooden cottage with three rooms and measuring 660-square feet. The house was put on the market in 2016 and was recently purchased by four Black artists to maintain Simone’s legacy. One, Adam Pendleton, said in a press release, “Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty.” He continued, “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release, “Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.
A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.
Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.
This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”
Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”
Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.
“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”
Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
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.
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.”
Wanda K. Brown, the director of library services at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, was named president-elect of the American Library Association. She will serve as president-elect for one year and then will take over the presidency at the conclusion of the association’s 2019 annual meeting.
The American Library Association was founded in 1853. It has more than 57,000 members worldwide. Brown will be the first president who is a librarian at a historically Black college or university.
Before joining the staff at Winston-Salem State University in 2016, Brown was associate dean of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She joined the staff at Wake Forest in 1977. Brown is a former president of the North Carolina Library Association and former president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.
Brown is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and holds a master of library and information science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
To learn more about other pioneering African-American librarians, click here.
Michael Jordan is donating $7 million to build two medical facilities to serve at-risk and underserved communities in Charlotte. The Hornets owner’s donation will fund the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics, expected to open late 2020.
The facilities will provide affordable access to primary and preventive care ― including behavioral health, physical therapy, social work, oral health and family planning ― to those with little-to-no health care. “Through my years of working with Novant Health, I have been impressed with their approach and their commitment to the community,” Jordan, who was raised in Wilmington and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, said in a press release. “It is my hope that these clinics will help provide a brighter and healthier future for the children and families they serve.”
Estee Portnoy, a spokeswoman for Jordan, told the Charlotte Observer that he was largely motivated to contribute after a 2014 study found that compared to other big cities in the country, Charlotte’s poor children have the worst chance of making it out of poverty. Over five years, the two clinics are projected to serve nearly 35,000 underserved children and adults, according to the press release.
“This gift will transform the lives of thousands of families and children living in poverty-stricken communities,” Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health, told the Associated Press. “We are thankful to Michael for his generosity. The gift will remove barriers to high-quality health care in some of the most vulnerable communities.”
ESPN reports that this is the former NBA star’s largest philanthropic gift ever. In 2016, Jordan gave $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture; he also pledged $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relationsto help “build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.”
North Carolina currently has six Black female police chiefs, the first time this has ever happened in state history, according to WRAL. Raleigh’s Cassandra Deck-Brown, Durham’s C.J. Davis, Morrisville’s Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville’s Gina Hawkins, three of the six chiefs, spoke to the station about their unique positions.
“We’ve broken a glass ceiling,” Deck-Brown told WRAL’s Lena Tillett. “So, becoming chief, the honor is knowing that somebody else has that opportunity to get there.” All three said that they felt that they had to work much harder than their white male counterparts, and they all were sure to acknowledge the increasing enmity between police and communities of color, an enmity that they are trying to help soothe.
They said that they are working to introduce more empathy and compassion to policing in an attempt to help change the way that police are perceived by their communities, especially in areas that have a history of specifically targeting people of color.“This is a paradigm shift in policing,” Deck-Brown said. “This is what 21st century [policing] looks like. All we need is the opportunity. Some do it better than others, but we need the opportunity.”
Hawkins, the mother of black children, also admitted that it was sometimes hard to reconcile her life and the fact that police often are the perpetrators of racism. “We’ve always been of color,” Hawkins said. “We’ve always had those family members, and that conversation that we have with our family members and our friends doesn’t change because we happen to have our uniform on.”
The first African Americans to ever serve in the United States Marine Corps were honored on Saturday during a special ceremony at Joe C. Davidson Park in Burlington, North Carolina. For the 75th anniversary of Montford Point Marine Day ― which marks the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to intregrate the Marines ― the Corps honored the black men who were trained at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina to become Marines in the 1940s.
Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 servicemen received their basic training at Montford Point, according to the Camp Lejeune Globe. About 300 of them are still alive. Four of those men ― John Thompson, Cleo Florence, Robert Thomas and Mack Haynes ― were in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony, the Burlington Times News reports. “When I went in in 1947, how things was then and how things have progressed and how they are today… there’s been a great change, but there still be more change and we may be able to have one nation under God and one people.”
As a kid, high school junior Jahmir Smith never had a dream college. But for a number of universities, he’s their dream student. The 17-year-old North Carolina native has already been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools and has received 33 full-ride scholarship offers, according to ABC 11 Eyewitness News.
While Smith has a 4.43 GPA at Lee County High School and an impressive ACT score, as well as enough credits to graduate a year early, The News & Observer reported that he’s also constantly being contacted by college football recruiters for his athleticism, receiving hundreds of texts from Division I coaches. Smith, who started playing football in middle school, has a composite three-star rating out of five on the sports website 247sports.com.
Additionally, he was chosen as 2016’s News & Observer’s Metro Football pick after scoring 41 touchdowns and running 2,130 yards in one season. Smith told HuffPost that while he doesn’t plan on making a career out of football, he’s certainly willing to give the NFL a shot. “It’s fast money,” he said. “But I don’t want it as a career because it would take a toll on my body.”
He added that if he doesn’t make the NFL, he wants to explore the medical field, specifically anesthesiology. In whatever he pursues, Smith is aware he’ll face challenges because of his race. But that’s not stopping him in the least bit. “I know the odds are against me because of my skin tone and all, but I don’t really let it get to me,” he said. “I just stay to myself and try to help those around me. I’ve always understood since I was little that people would see me different.”