Confederate Statues Come Down at University Of Texas at Austin

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is removed from the University of Texas campus early Monday morning in Austin. (Eric Gay/AP)

The president of the University of Texas at Austin has ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and three other Confederate-era figures — Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg — from a main area of campus.

President Greg Fenves announced the statues’ fate Sunday night, and the removals should be complete by mid-morning Monday. A university spokesman says the area has been blocked off. Lee and Johnston were Confederate generals, Reagan was a Confederate postmaster and Hogg was the first native-born governor of Texas and the son of a Confederate general.

In a letter to the university community, Fenves connected the events with the decision to remove the statues now: “[T]he horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.” …”The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.”

“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus.”The statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan will be added to the collection at the university’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History for “scholarly study,” Fenves wrote. The Hogg statue will be considered for relocation elsewhere on campus. In 2015, the university removed a statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis.

On Saturday, Duke University announced that it had removed a statue of Gen. Lee that was in the entry to the large chapel on its campus.

To read full article, go to: Confederate Statues Come Down At The University Of Texas : The Two-Way : NPR

Federal Court Invalidates Part of Texas Congressional Map for Violating Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution

Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman via texastribune.org

by Alexa Ura AND Jim Malewitz via texastribune.org

Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts Tuesday, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court. A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.

The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections. The court ruled only on the current congressional map, leaving legal challenges to the state House map unanswered. The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations — although Republicans in Austin had previously expressed no appetite to undertake a special session devoted to redistricting.

Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map. That could shake up other congressional races when the boundaries are changed, though the court has asked the parties to consult with experts to “minimize the effect on adjoining districts.” Before Tuesday’s decision, the judges had already ruled that the Texas Legislature sought to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while drawing state House and congressional districts in 2011, immediately following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed mixed emotions about Tuesday’s outcome. “We appreciate that the panel ruled in favor of Texas on many issues in the case. But the portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012,” the Republican said in a written statement. “We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court.”

Minority and civil rights groups suing the state celebrated the ruling as a win for voters who they say were forced to cast votes under unconstitutional maps.

To read full article, go to: Federal court invalidates part of Texas congressional map | The Texas Tribune

Black Santa, For the First Time Ever, Comes to Mall of America in Minnesota

Larry Jefferson is the first black Santa in the 24-year history of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. (STAR TRIBUNE SCREENSHOT)

article by Monique Judge via theroot.com

For the first time in its 24-year history, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., had a black Santa on hand to help spread holiday cheer Thursday.

“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience, which has run the intimate photo studio at the mall for years, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”

Customers at the Mall of America have two Santa options to choose from: They can wait in line with everyone else at the mall for the free Santa, or they can book an appointment with the Santa Experience. The Star Tribune reports that Luther conducted a national search last spring for a Santa to whom children of color would be able to relate. Santa Sid, who has worked at the Mall of America for 20 years, met Larry Jefferson of Irving, Texas, at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo. Of the 1,000 Santa impersonators in attendance, Jefferson was the only black one.

“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Luther said.

Jefferson, dressed as Santa Larry, will greet children, pass out candy and pose for photographs by appointment only from Thursday to Sunday.

To read more, got to: For 1st Time Ever, a Black Santa Comes to Mall of America in Minn.

Zena Stephens Elected 1st Black Female Sheriff in Texas

Zena Stephens, Democratic candidate for Jefferson County Sheriff, is swarmed by supporters offering hugs of congratulations and celebrating her win in Beaumont Tuesday. (Photo by Kim Brent/The Enterprise)

Zena Stephens, Democratic candidate for Jefferson County Sheriff, is swarmed by supporters offering  congratulations and celebrating her win in Beaumont Tuesday. (Photo by Kim Brent/The Enterprise)

article by Liz Teitz via houstonchronicle.com

BEAUMONT – While history was being made with the election of Donald Trump as president, Zena Stephens was making a little of her own in Southeast Texas by becoming the state’s first black female sheriff.

And it took three elections to do it.

In the March primary, Stephens knocked out the incumbent sheriff’s chief deputy, who was the favorite of law enforcement and had significantly outraised Stephens. In May, she bested an African-American constable in a runoff. Then on Tuesday she narrowly defeated a 39-year retired Beaumont police lieutenant to become sheriff of Jefferson County.

According to the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, which tracks the history of the office, Stephens is the first black woman elected sheriff in the state.

After her victory, she acknowledged the significance of her success.

“I think it is important, because I never saw anybody who looked like me in this role, or as a police chief, when I was growing up,” said Stephens. “And so the idea, not just for girls but for any minority, that you can obtain these jobs at this level, I think that’s important. And it’s important for these jobs in law enforcement and any job to reflect the community they serve.”

To read full article, go to: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Jefferson-County-elects-Texas-first-black-female-10605106.php

#IWalkWithNatasha: 300 Students Escort Young Woman  to Class After She Reports Racial Harassment on Baylor Univ. Campus 

(photo via twitter.com)

Natasha Nkhama, a Baylor University student, was attacked by a student and called the N-word while walking around campus earlier this week.

She described the incident in a video posted to Twitter by her friend, Jaileene Maite.

“On my way to class, this guy went out of his way to bump into me and … shove me off the sidewalk,” she said. “He said ‘no n*ggers allowed on the sidewalk’.”

“And I was just shocked,” she added. “Like, I had no words.”

Nkhama also said that when confronted by a nearby student, her attacker replied “Like what … I’m just trying to make America great again.”

“So if you voted for Donald Trump, I hope you realize what that means from someone else’s point of view,” Nkhama said.

As word of the incident spread throughout campus, students arranged a plan to escort Nkhama to her Friday morning class using the hashtag #IWalkWithNatasha.

Hundreds of people showed up — including some whose professors let them leave class early to help out.

To read more, go to: #IWalkWithNatasha: 300 Students Escort a Girl to Class After She Reports Racial Harassment on Campus [Video] – B. Scott | lovebscott.com

British Racer Lewis Hamilton Cruises to Victory at United States Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton (photo via rye-house.co.uk)

article by Samuel Reiman via foxsports.com

Formula One racer and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton cruised to his seventh win of the season on Sunday at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, TX. He now sits 26 points back of his teammate Nico Rosberg. This is his fourth win in five starts at CoTA and the 50th of his career.

The Brit started from pole position and beat Rosberg into the first corner. He never looked back.  Rosberg, meanwhile, had a more eventful race, as he lost second spot to Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo in Turn 1.  Rosberg wasn’t able to get the spot back until the middle of the race under a Virtual Safety Car period.

The Virtual Safety Car had been deployed after Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen had parked his car with a mechanical issue on track. This hurt Ricciardo as he had already pit ahead of the Virtual Safety Car period, while both Mercedes drivers had yet to make their second stop and so were able to pit without losing too much time.

Verstappen had already been having a race to forget, as he had came into the pits not too long before his retirement, mistakenly thinking the team had called him in. They hadn’t, and so were not prepared for his stop, costing the Dutch racing driver a lot of time.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also hit trouble in the pits. The Finn was trying to make a three-stop strategy work, and it was going well. He was running fourth when he came into the pits for his final stop of the day, but was released when the right-rear wheel gun was still attached. His wheel was not bolted on correctly, and Raikkonen was forced to park the car on pit exit. Ferrari is being investigated for releasing Raikkonen’s car in an unsafe condition.

While Hamilton led Rosberg and Ricciardo over the line, it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel placing in fourth behind them. Behind him was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who muscled his way by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Williams driver Felipe Massa, in which there was contact involved, in the closing laps of the race. Sainz placed sixth while Massa placed seventh. Sergio Perez placed eighth for Force India ahead of Jenson Button in ninth, meaning both McLarens scored points. Romain Grosjean rounded out the points in 10th, scoring a point in the team’s first race on home soil and in his 100th start. The collision between Alonso and Massa will be investigated after the race.

To read more, go to: http://www.foxsports.com/motor/story/f1-us-gp-race-results-recap-austin-texas-lewis-hamilton-mercedes-wins-102316

Sandra Bland’s Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit in Texas For $1.9 Million

Newsworthy

(Source: Keith Getter / Getty)

article via theurbandaily.com

The family of Sandra Bland has settled a wrongful death suit with officials in Waller County, Texas, for $1.9 million, reports CNN.

The amount includes payment for Bland’s death as well as several changes to jail procedures, notes the report.  The case became a rallying call in the push for criminal justice reform after the 28-year-old Illinois woman was found dead in a jail cell, three days after she was arrested for failing to use her turn signal in July 2015. Many of the activists argued that she should not have been arrested on a minor traffic infraction or jailed in the first place.

The family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert, said the final details of the agreement were hammered out on Wednesday night, writes CNN:

Some of the jail procedure changes included in the settlement are:

— Using automated electronic sensors to ensure timely cell checks

— Providing an on-duty staff nurse or emergency medical technician for all shifts

— Providing continuing education for jailer screening

In addition, “the Waller County judge will be seeking passage of state legislation for more funding for local jails regarding intake and booking, screening and other jail support,” the attorney said.

Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested her, was “fired after he was indicted on a perjury charge,” notes CNN. And a Waller County jail worker admitted to falsifying log entries showing that he checked on Bland an hour before her death.