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.
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.”
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.
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.
The family of 15-year-old Dajerria Becton plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against former McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt for slamming her to the ground during a pool party.
A grand jury decided last week not to indict Casebolt, saying there was not enough evidence of criminal wrongdoing, despite the video showing the former officer slamming and sitting on the young woman and even drawing his gun on two other teenagers who attempted to help her.
Casebolt resigned from his position in the McKinney Police Department four days after the altercation took place at a pool party in 2015.
On Monday’s edition of NewsOne Now, Becton family attorney Kim Cole spoke with guest host Avis Jones-DeWeeverabout the lawsuit against Casebolt and the McKinney Police Department, and addressed Becton’s condition since she was brutally assaulted by the former cop.
The charges filed include assault, battery, unlawful detention, and infliction of emotional distress.
Cole considers their chances of receiving justice through a civil suit greater than criminal litigation, “because the standard of proof is lower than of a criminal case.” She also emphasized the effect of the jury pool’s impact on receiving justice in cases involving police misconduct and said, “I think that is problematic in a lot of cases across the U.S. as well…The jury pools are rarely diverse.”
Cole said the McKinney case is “indicative of a much larger problem in this country.”
When asked how Becton is doing, Cole said, “Physically, she has healed,” and then added, “she is struggling emotionally … with all of this being back in the media again it’s difficult, it’s tough for her.”
Cole concluded, “This is something that will follow her for the rest of her life.”
article by Michael Cooper and David Gelles via nytimes.com
Robert F. Smith, the private equity titan who was named the richest African-American man by Forbes last year after making a fortune in software, also has a quirky musical side.
He owns one of Elton John’s old pianos. He hired John Legend and Seal — and a youth orchestra — to perform at his wedding last summer on the Amalfi Coast. His youngest sons, Hendrix and Legend, are named after Jimi Hendrix and Mr. Legend. And he bought and refurbished a retreat in the Rocky Mountains that was beloved by jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington.
On Thursday, Mr. Smith’s intersecting worlds of money, philanthropy and music came together when he was named the chairman of Carnegie Hall, the nation’s most prestigious concert stage. He became the first African-American to hold the post at a time when diversity at leading cultural organizations lags — a recent survey of New York’s cultural institutions found that nearly 78 percent of their board members were white.
“Carnegie Hall is perfectly placed to champion not only artistic excellence, but also access and exposure to the best music in the world,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.
The election of Mr. Smith, 53, who played an old upright piano while growing up in Denver and was told that with enough practice he might make it to Carnegie one day, brings to an end a low moment at the hall. The billionaire Ronald O. Perelman served as its chairman for less than a year before stepping down last fall after he alienated the board by clashing with the hall’s executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson.
After shunning the spotlight for years, Mr. Smith, who is based in Austin, Tex., where the private equity firm he founded, Vista Equity Partners, has its headquarters, has recently taken a more public role — starting a foundation, the Fund II Foundation; giving commencement addresses; and donating money. His alma mater, Cornell University, renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for him earlier this year after he announced a $50 million gift.
Unlike Carnegie’s most recent chairmen, Mr. Perelman and Sanford I. Weill, the former Citigroup chairman, Mr. Smith does not come from the world of New York finance, and he has not been a major fixture on the city’s social scene — he is more known for flying in to attend events in the city and then flying out. But his work outside the city with investors and tech firms could provide entree to new potential donors in the coming years.