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Showing posts with label Blavity News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blavity News. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2020

Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush Says Republican Colleagues Called Her Breonna Taylor During Freshman Orientation

News outlets and publications have covered the case of Breonna Taylor and the subsequent protests in the eight months after she was killed by police on March 13. Yet, there are still Republican politicians who aren’t quite sure who Taylor is.

On her first day in Congress, Missouri Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush posed for a picture wearing a face mask with the name “Breonna Taylor.” According to Elle Magazine, Bush tweeted a few hours later that a number of her Republican colleagues were confusing her for Taylor.

"It’s Day One, so I’m wearing my 'Breonna Taylor' mask," she wrote. "A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that’s my name. It hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress."

from Blavity News

Louisville Police Department Accused Of Concealing 738,000 Records Documenting Sexual Abuse Of Minors By Two Officers

The Louisville Metro Police Department is being accused of obscuring approximately 738,000 records of child sexual abuse claims involving the police mentoring program.

According to The Courier-Journal, the scandal began to unravel when police revealed in 2016 that an officer was being investigated for his conduct in the Explorer Scout program. Later that year, a 22-year-old identified as "N.C." said in a lawsuit that he was sexually assaulted by officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood while he was a member of the program from the ages of 17 to 19.

Eventually, six other plaintiffs joined the suit and accused the city, the police department and former program supervisor, Lt. Curtis Flaherty of working to cover up the abuse. In March 2017, Mayor Greg Fischer shut down the Explorer Scout program.

Initially, an attorney hired by the city found the police department mismanaged sexual abuse allegations. He concluded that despite “violations of policy and mistakes in judgment,” there was no evidence of police officials conspiring to conceal the reports.

Last year, The Courier-Journal requested the police database of records for sexual abuse claims by members in the Explorer Scout program but were told that the FBI confiscated all of the data. Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Annale Taylor wrote in a letter to the newspaper that "when the investigation was taken by the FBI, all copies of the investigative materials… were physically removed from the premises, digital devices and servers of LMPD."

However, three months earlier, LMPD Sgt. Robert Banta said in an email that he could provide any documentation related to the program up to the start of the FBI investigation on April 1, 2017.

“All that information still resides in the PIU (Professional Integrity Unit) case file and is available to the county attorney’s office,” Banta said in an email dated June 6, 2019. The police sergeant told the newspaper that he would comply with locating and obtaining the records.

On Sept. 8, 2019, The Courier-Journal revealed that the LMPD had found more than 9,000 documents in a “hidden folder.” After the files were discovered, the city’s information tech team said it removed the records and gave them to the FBI. But, the publication learned that far more documents were unearthed and deleted.

"The Explorer case represents a total breakdown in trust between police and teens who had an interest in the law enforcement profession," Courier-Journal Editor Richard Green said. "To now dodge the public's access to these documents speaks to an institutional disregard for the Open Records Act and the very residents LMPD is to serve and protect. My frustration with how it's been handled only underscores our commitment to dig even deeper and hold those in power to account."

In an Oct. 21 letter to the publication's lawyers, Assistant County Attorney Roy Denny acknowledged 9,700 folders containing 738,000 documents had been found in a clandestine folder.

“It’s very disturbing to me that either the county attorney’s office or the police department was so dead-set on making sure those records never reached the public,” Metro Council President David James said Wednesday.

This week, Councilman Anthony Piagentini wrote in a tweet that "there aren’t the appropriate words to describe how indefensible this is. The administration oversaw the sexual exploitation of minors and then deleted evidence."

Kenyon Meyer, a lawyer brought in by the county attorney’s office to investigate, said his review is pending but insisted that he has found no evidence of wrongdoing or a violation of the Open Records Act. Meyer also said none of the evidence was deleted.

However, lawyers for the newspaper contended that the city effectively destroyed the evidence despite what was suggested in reviews.

"They have destroyed their ability to comply with the open records law, and they did it purposely, and they didn’t tell the truth about it,” Courier-Journal Attorney Jon Fleischaker said. "They can't require us to go elsewhere to get those documents."

After its Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI was denied, Courier-Journal lawyers questioned the authenticity of city officials to work with the newspaper in uncovering the scandal.

"The law requires them to truthfully tell us what records they have in their possession," Fleischaker said. "The law requires them to maintain the integrity of the documents. What they did is quite the opposite. That is a violation of the open records law and potentially a violation of the law of tampering with evidence."

On Monday, County Attorney Mike O’Connell released a statement saying he hired Mayer to ensure the review of the paper’s allegation is conducted thoroughly and fairly.

"The newspaper made significant claims, and I felt it was important to engage someone at the highest level with no connection to my office to assist in this matter,” O'Connell said. My immediate action should show that I take the matter seriously."

According to local station WLKY, on Wednesday, a third Louisville officer was charged with abusing minors in the Explorer Scout program.  

Brad Schuhmann was indicted earlier this month in federal court for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl in 2010. Schuhmann later resigned following his indictment.

Officers Wood and Betts pleaded guilty to criminal charges after the FBI opened an investigation into the program in April 2017, according to The Courier-Journal. Wood, 34, was sentenced to 70 months in prison for attempted enticement of a minor, while Betts, 36, was sentenced to 16 years on child pornography and enticement charges.

According to The Courier-Journal, the lawsuits and criminal review are ongoing.

from Blavity News

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Family Of Missing Louisiana Teen Found Dead And 'Disfigured' Demand Answers, Compare His Body To Emmett Till

Concerns are growing in Louisiana around the investigation into the tragic death of a Black 15-year-old who went missing on Oct. 30, according to The Advocate.

Quawan Charles left his home with a friend, a white 17-year-old, and his friend's mom but never returned. Charles' parents frantically begged the police to search for him and release a missing person notice but local law enforcement refused.

Local news outlet KLFY reported that Charles' body was later found in a sugarcane field. 

“They were told things [by police] like, ‘He’s probably at a football game; probably here; there; anywhere else,’ and we don’t know if those delays could’ve contributed to his death. We know when there is a missing child, the most critical moment is when you first call law enforcement that the child is missing,” the family's attorney Ron Haley told Revolt. 

Haley told Blavity that an Amber Alert was not issued for Charles because a kidnapping had not been confirmed. However, the 15-year-old's family had questions after seeing Charles' body and originally being told he had drowned, according to KATC.

The family has since shared a photo of Charles' body with injuries to his face.

“His face is disfigured. So there’s some explaining that needs to be done there. They still have not shown us where Quawan was or what creek he was found at. We can’t even go and put up a cross where he was found at. They’re being very discreet,” family spokesperson Celina Charles said. 

Celina added that it seemed "as though they tried to sweep this under the rug."

"We not only feel like the family has been let down, but the community, the public, the media. Everybody has questions, not only the family. He was only 15. It could have been anybody's child," she said. 

On a GoFundMe page, the family placed the photo of Charles next to that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

"Quawan's face — You can see that it's just about gone. The coroner told us that there was no blunt force trauma to the head and no sign of strangulation, but when you look at him, you see something totally different from what the coroner said," Celina said.

Both the Baldwin Police Department and Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office have refused to release any information to multiple news outlets and have each released statements. 

The Baldwin Police Department said they would not be investigating the death and defended their decision to not release an Amber Alert. 

"The Baldwin Police Department will be investigating reasons why the deceased juvenile was missing from his residence in Baldwin. Proper protocol was used to report the juvenile as missing and all procedures were followed thru within the Baldwin jurisdiction," the police department said in a statement. 

Katherine Breaux, the spokesperson for the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office, called it a "terrible tragedy" but refused to release any other details, only telling the newspaper that her office was not alerted that Charles was even missing.

The response from both law enforcement departments prompted the Charles family to seek an independent autopsy of Charles' body and hire an investigator. 

Celina added that the 15-year-old was quiet but he enjoyed fishing, playing with his dog and riding his four-wheeler. 

The family's attorneys have also released a recording to The Root that features Celina speaking to an unnamed woman who made a number of claims based on what her son saw.

The woman, whose name is bleeped out of the recording, said her son knows the white 17-year-old who Charles left home with and that the friend's family was allegedly on psychedelic mushrooms at the time of Charles' death.  

The woman said her son told her the family's car smelled like bleach and they found Charles' body in the sugarcane field behind their home.

Other local activists bashed the police in interviews with news outlets, slamming them for not taking the case seriously. 

Jamal Taylor, an activist with the NAACP, The Village and Stand Black, said that groups planned to protest outside of the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. 

"Bobby's mother has explicitly asked that it be peaceful. We're going to go with signs and just have our presence felt by the Sheriff's department. We're standing with the family. We're here to support the family. We're going to fight for Quawan, and we're not going to back down. He's not going to be just another hashtag," Taylor said. 

"If Quawan was a 15-year-old white female, they would have turned the city upside down for her. It blows my mind the blatant disregard the Police Department had for the wellbeing of a Black child," he added. 

A funeral will be held for Charles at West St. Mary Civic Center on Nov. 21.

from Blavity News

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

10 Ways Black America Paved The Way For The 2020 Election Victory

After days of vote counting in key swing states, false accusations coming from President Donald Trump and his associates, and general anxiety across the nation, major news outlets on Saturday declared former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris the new president-elect and vice president-elect respectively. As Blavity previously reported, the news came as the media projected that Biden will win Pennsylvania, which puts him over the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the election.  

Even though the Trump campaign seems determined to pursue ridiculous legal challenges to the vote in Pennsylvania and other states, few believe that the final results will change. Biden’s win ends a long and unusual 2020 presidential campaign that occurred in a year unlike any other in American history.

As we mark Biden and Harris’ victory and the impending end of the Trump presidency, let’s look back on 10 of the most important moments from 2020 that led to this outcome and how Black people shaped the race each step of the way:

from Blavity News

Simone Biles Shuts Down Homophobic Backlash After Appearing In Ad With LGBTQ+ Actor

Simone Biles shut naysayers down via her Twitter account after appearing in an UberEats commercial with Queer Eye actor Jonathan Van Ness. The athlete's appearance in the commercial sparked backlash from the conservative group One Million Moms, CBS News reported. 

Biles clapped back at everyone who criticized her and Van Ness for appearing in the ad. 

“The world we live in makes me sad, but I’d do x1000000 more commercials with you just to piss everyone off!” Biles wrote on Twitter. “The LGBTQIA will always have my support and feel welcome on my socials.” 

The conservative group blasted UberEats for casting Van Ness in the commercial claiming the ad was inappropriate for young viewers and posted a scathing review on its website. 

“Casting a cross-dresser in its ads screams liberal agenda and turns off potential Uber Eats customers,” the organization said.

“Shame on Uber Eats for attempting to brainwash viewers with an agenda instead of focusing on providing a helpful service, especially during a pandemic,” the statement continued. “Potential customers have plenty of other food delivery options to choose from instead of doing business with Uber Eats and its parent company Uber. Uber Eats and Uber are actually pushing consumers to the competition with their propaganda.”

The organization, instead, insisted the company should focus on its mission. 

“Instead of making audiences lose their appetite by glamorizing a LGBTQ lifestyle, Uber Eats should focus on what it does and remain neutral on controversial issues,” the organization added. “For anyone curious or struggling with his or her sexual identity, watching someone prance around in the opposite sex’s clothing is not the answer.”

According to Ad Age, the commercial is a part of a series by UberEats that pairs celebrities across industries to spar over what to eat for dinner. The Biles-Van Ness matchup showed the duo trading signature moves on the gymnastics floor. Between the moves, the two yell out their supper choices. 

“Tonight, I’ll be eating cheesy cauliflower pizza with extra broccolini,” Biles yelled with her arms raised in the air. 

“My turn!” Van Ness responds. “Tonight, I’ll be eating cheesy cauliflower pizza—and yummy broccolini!” 

According to Teen Vogue, UberEats, along with Biles, is throwing their support behind Van Ness. The company responded in support of Van Ness who identifies as non-binary. 

“At Uber Eats, we’re unapologetically committed to representing the flavor spectrum. From tacos to talent, we like it spicy,” an Uber Eats spokesperson told the magazine. “JVN and Simone serve gymnastic prowess and ferosh self-confidence, qualities millions of moms everywhere can—and do—support.”

One Million Moms created a petition to boycott the popular delivery service which has since garnered a little over 7,000 signatures.

from Blavity News

Toronto Cop Gets Light Prison Sentence After He And Brother Assault Black Man, Leave Him Partially Blind

The Toronto police officer who left Dafonte Miller blind in one eye has been sentenced to nine months in jail for the assault, Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca said during a hearing on Thursday, according to the CBC.  

As Blavity previously reported, brothers Michael and Christian Theriault attacked then 19-year-old Miller with a pipe on December 28, 2016. Only Michael, who is a Toronto police officer, was convicted of assault while both men were acquitted of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

Miller lost his eye after the attack and spent months in recovery. A witness said the two men continued to beat Miller even as he laid on the ground defenseless. 

Despite the brutality of the attack, Di Luca denied that the assault was racially motivated during the court hearing on Thursday. 

"While the Crown does not allege the assault was racially motivated, the racialized context in which the offense took place cannot be ignored. The offense committed in these circumstances undermines societal values of dignity and equality. It undermines the trust that the community — particularly the Black community — places on police officers. It must be denounced in the clearest terms," Di Luca said. 

In addition to the nine-month sentence, Michael will be put on 12 months probation and will be banned from possessing or using restricted weapons for five years.

While the sentence is fairly short, Miller's lawyer, Julian Falconer, told CBC that he was happy with the verdict. 

"They are groundbreaking in their clear and penetrating recognition of the social racial context that police encounters represent for victims in these kinds of cases. Dafonte feels like he had a voice," Falconer said.

"The net result of nine months in prison for Michael Theriault is not going to take away the deep distrust [Miller will] have for police for the rest of his life," Falconer added, noting that nothing would bring Miller's eye back. 

The case was controversial because of the widely divergent stories from both sides. Miller says he was walking with friends in Whitby, Ontario when the Theriault brothers demanded to know why he was in the area. When he refused to answer, the two brothers chased him down and violently beat him for minutes in the front yard of a home. 

He was covered in bruises and blood while trying to run, banging on the front door of a home begging for help. But the brothers caught up with him and proceeded to continued to attack him with a pipe. 

James Silverthorn, the district chief with Toronto Fire Services, was the owner of the home and looked out his window to see the Theriault brothers battering Miller with the pipe.

"It was continuous. It was very hard," Silverthorn said during his testimony.

There was further outrage when it was revealed by the Toronto Star that the police allowed Theriault to handcuff Miller as he laid on the ground covered in blood. Doctors found Miller's left eye was so damaged that they had to remove it.

The police department then charged Miller with assault and refused to hand the case over to the Special Investigations Unit that generally deals with police brutality cases.

The unit took months to charge the brothers and let Miller's assault charge hang over him for a lengthy amount of time.

“We are asking you to accept that a retreating Dafonte Miller was the victim of a vicious, two-on-one assault perpetrated by Michael and Christian Theriault that left him with life-altering injuries,” prosecutor Linda Shin told the court during the trial.

Both Theriault brothers told a different story to the court, saying that they caught Miller breaking into their parent's car before chasing him down and attacking him. Their testimony drew scrutiny because they said they both feared for their lives and were only defending themselves, but later admitted to chasing Miller down and beating him with the pipe. 

Michael later claimed that he planned to arrest Miller, even though he was off-duty and continued to attack him while he was on the ground. 

Prosecutors repeatedly tried to downplay the racial implications of the case. The lawyer for the brothers said during his closing argument that "this case is not about race."

Protests erupted when Di Luca sided with the Theriaults in denying that the case had anything to do with race. Both of the Theriaults are white and Miller is Black. 

“I want to make one thing very clear: I am not saying that race has nothing to do with this case. Indeed, I am mindful of the need to carefully consider the racialized context from which this case arises," Di Luca said during a court hearing.

"One could well ask how this matter might have unfolded if the first responders arrived at a call, late one winter evening, and observed a Black man dressed in socks with no shoes, claiming to be a police officer, asking for handcuffs while kneeling on top of a significantly injured white man,” he added. 

Despite denying the racial motivations of the case, Di Luca admitted that "Michael Theriault’s initial intent was likely not to arrest Mr. Miller, but rather to capture him, and assault him.”

It is still unclear why Christian was let off with no charges, and while Miller was reportedly happy with the results of the case, activists were far less accepting of the verdict considering the permanent damage done to his eye.

“I’m in pain, I’m enraged, I’m upset,” Protester Cristal Hines told reporters in June,

But Miller, who is now 22, said he wants to move forward during a press conference in June.

"It's meant a lot to me in these last few years. It's helped me go forward. Now, we're in a situation where an officer has been held accountable to some extent. There's a lot of people who are in my position who don't get the same backing that I got and don't get to have their day to really have any vindication for what they're going through," the 22-year-old said. 

from Blavity News

White Pennsylvania Republican Tries To Cover His Ass After Pretending To Be A Black Gay Man In Tweet

Pennsylvania Republican Dean Browning got blasted online Tuesday afternoon after he was caught pretending to be a Black person on Twitter. 

The white, conservative politician previously served as Lehigh County Commissioner and lost the Republican primary in June for the U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District. He lost the race by just 2,400 votes, according to Ballotpedia.

But on Tuesday, he was going back and forth with another Twitter user when it appeared that he forgot to switch to his alleged Black burner account. 

Browning tweeted about his dislike of president-elect Joe Biden and his belief that he would "destroy" the work of President Donald Trump. Someone commented under his post about how great former President Barack Obama was and how Trump was simply taking credit for his work.

In response, Browning decided to write from the perspective of a Black person.

"I'm a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me, my life only changed a little bit and it was for the worse. Everything is so much better under Trump though. I feel respected - which I never do when democrats are involved," he wrote on Twitter.

Despite suspicion surrounding his tweet, it has not been confirmed that Browning has a burner account. Nevertheless, that didn't stop Twitter from swooping in and calling the politician out. 

from Blavity News

Monday, November 9, 2020

Joe Biden Names Black Woman As Co-Chair Of Coronavirus Task Force

With an immediate plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, president-elect Joe Biden has formed a task force and named a savvy Black Yale professor as one of three co-chairs to lead the initiative. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management at Yale School of Medicine, will join University of California at San Francisco's Dr. David Kessler and former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy in guiding Biden and his administration in COVID-19 response, according to The Hartford Courant. 

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a statement. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”

In a statement on Monday, Nunez-Smith said she was grateful to join Biden’s task force at a time when the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color. 

“Everyone is affected by this pandemic, yet the burden is disproportionate,” Nunez-Smith said. "We know communities of color are grieving at high rates and are facing substantial economic impact. The transition advisory board is setting a course for everyone in our country to experience recovery.”

Nunez-Smith has built a long and successful career as a medical professional. She graduated with degrees from Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College, Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and Yale. She has since acted as the founding director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center, director of the Center for Research Engagement and deputy director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, The Hartford Courant reports. 

According to her Yale bio, Nunez-Smith's research concentrates on “promoting health and healthcare equity for structurally marginalized populations with an emphasis on supporting healthcare workforce diversity and development, developing patient reported measurements of healthcare quality."

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont wrote on Twitter that he supported the president-elect in appointing Dr. Nunez-Smith and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to the taskforce due to their work on local COVID-19 response.

"Pleased to see that members of CT’s #COVID science team are recognized around the country. Yale physician Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith is co-chair of President-elect @JoeBiden’s COVID team—which also includes Dr. @ZekeEmanuel—both of whom have been advising our state response," Lamont tweeted. 

In addition to the three co-chairs, the newly appointed Biden task force has recruited ten other experts from across the country, including Dr. Emanuel, former White House medical senior advisor Dr. Atul Gawande and former George W. Bush administration epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, according to Yahoo! News. 

from Blavity News

Folks Speculate Over WTF Is Going On In Trump’s Head As He Reportedly Touts 2024 Run

President Donald Trump has already told some of his senior advisers that he plans to run in the 2024 presidential election, according to a report from Axios.

The reports come as the president refuses to concede and remains engaged in an unprecedented effort to cast doubt on the November 3 results. On Saturday, multiple news outlets, including Fox News, declared Democratic candidate Joe Biden as the winner of the election and 46th president of the United States.

But Trump spent the weekend either claiming he won the election or making unverified accusations of fraud.

Despite his insistence that he hasn't lost, the president's advisers have reportedly spent days trying to explain to him that he definitely did lose the election, according to The Wall Street Journal. Even his wife and son-in-law have tried to float the idea of conceding, which he has shot down. Yet, the news on Monday that Trump was looking ahead to 2024 was a tacit sign that he is coming to terms with the fact that he has lost.

There were a variety of responses to the news that Trump was looking to run again in 2024. Some said he would only float the idea of running again to continue fundraising while others said he wanted to run again just to complicate potential criminal charges he may face once he leaves office. 

from Blavity News

Lil’ Kim Celebrates Kamala Harris’ Victory Despite VP-Elect’s Past Remarks About Rapper: ‘Support Sis, Anyway’

Thousands of Americans celebrated former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump over the weekend. Many were hopeful about the future of the country given that Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would be the first-ever Black woman to hold the title of vice president.

Among those celebrating online was rapper Lil' Kim, who posted a congratulatory tweet on Saturday.

from Blavity News

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Twitter Goes Up For Joe Biden And Kamala Harris After Victory Is Declared

CNN, Fox News and other major news outlets took the plunge Saturday afternoon and declared former vice president Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election, ignoring unverified claims by President Donald Trump that the count was unfair to him. 

Biden had been on the cusp of victory for days as states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia had us all watching endless hours of cable television waiting for results. Thanks to huge turnout numbers from the Black communities in Detroit, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Atlanta and other cities, Biden was able to push past the 270 mark with a win in Pennsylvania. 

Nine of Trump's lawsuits against the vote count have either been thrown out or denied, and his advisors have told him to prepare for the reality that he has lost, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Trump, as one would expect, is not taking it well. 

He continues to deny that he lost, and the Wall Street Journal said he does not have plans to concede. 

But Trump's reticence to accepting reality has done little to damper the happiness of millions of Americans desperate to get him out of the White House. 

There's been partying, memes, horn honking and more in cities across the country, and the world, as it becomes clear Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, will take office in January. 

from Blavity News

Parties Erupt Throughout America After Biden-Harris Win The Presidential Race

Jubilation is sweeping the streets of the nation as Americans sing, dance and cry tears of joy to celebrate the end of Donald Trump's four-year term as president. The celebration started early on Saturday morning after Joe Biden was declared the winner in the 2020 presidential race, along with Kamala Harris, who will soon be America's first Black, first female and first South Asian vice president.

Take a look at the celebrations below:

from Blavity News

Friday, November 6, 2020

'He Effed Around And Found Out': Ilhan Omar Talks Trump's Salty Election Projections For Home State Of Minnesota

Representative Ilhan Omar had time on Friday to fire back at President Donald Trump after months of campaign rallies where he used her as a punching bag and leveled dozens of overtly racist insults toward the congresswoman.

Throughout his campaign, Trump used Omar's identity as a Black Muslim woman to galvanize his largely white base. Trump not only called her "crazy," but a "horrible woman who hates our country."

"One of the reason's we're going to win Minnesota: Ilhan Omar," he said at a recent rally before November 3. 

He routinely led "Send Her Back" chants at his rallies and devoted significant parts of his campaign speeches to bashing her.

Ironically enough, Trump lost Minnesota handily on November 3, in part thanks to Omar's work. His opponent, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, won the state 52% to 45%.

In an interview with The Intercept's Ryan Grim, Omar explained why the party was able to secure a win in the state and spoke about Trump's grave misconceptions.

Grim asked her about Trump's comments suggesting her mere existence in the state would deliver him victory against Biden.

“He effed around and found out,” she said. "You get what you organize for and we've been massively organizing our state our district for this turnout."

She went on to explain that when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Biden's campaign decided to pull all of its in-person canvassing efforts in Minnesota and other crucial states, believing that everything could be done digitally or through the phone.

But Omar, and many other left-wing politicians in swing states like Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, disagreed and told the Biden campaign that they would do the door-to-door campaigning themselves. 

"They believed it could get done without door to door campaigning. You all don't have to be involved. I can do it all alone. You just have to trust that we can get it done here," she said she told the Biden campaign.

"I'm really proud of the fact that they allowed us to do that and didn't interfere," she added.

She also noted that after winning her own primary, she kept up her operation and still canvassed in high-traffic areas to push local voters to get registered and come out for Biden, which millions did. 

Omar's efforts mirror those in other major cities like Detroit, Atlanta and Philadelphia, which may end up providing crucial votes to push Biden into the presidency.

from Blavity News

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

'I Won': SZA Declares Victory After New Jersey Votes To Legalize Recreational Weed

With the results of the 2020 presidential election still pending, one early revelation from election season is that Americans want to rewrite the narrative around marijuana.

In several states, voters elected to decriminalize or legalize weed and other recreational narcotics. According to Vox, voters in Arizona, Montana and South Dakota rallied to legalize marijuana for recreational use. While in Mississippi and South Dakota, people rushed the polls to legalize medical marijuana.

Earlier this week, SZA tweeted that she’ll stop voting if her home state of New Jersey didn’t elect to legalize weed.

from Blavity News

This 23-Year-Old Made History When He Piloted This Boeing Plane And Didn’t Even Know It

Growing up, Malik Sinegal didn’t just dream of becoming a pilot one day, he envisioned himself at the helm of a Boeing 777 airliner, the world’s largest twinjet plane.

At 23, the Biloxi, Mississippi, native has accomplished his childhood dream and, in doing so, has become the youngest Black person in the world to be certified as a Boeing 777 pilot, an honor he told Fox-affiliate WXXV-25 is rarely accomplished by members of Gen Z.

“The Triple 7 is one of the airplanes that people usually don’t touch until they’re around their forties or fifties or they’ve been at the airlines for a very long time. And I came down with the opportunity where–a scholarship opportunity where I was able to get into the airplane,” Sinegal said.

Flying the aircraft has been a motivating and driving force for the 23-year-old that culminated in a trip to the one spot in the world that he one day wished of flying to.

“The biggest reason for me is that I’ve always wanted to fly this airplane. I was able to get in it for my first time in 2004 going to Anchorage, Alaska, which is my favorite place in the world," he said. 

Sinegal told WXXV-25 that he was unaware he had accomplished the honor until an official from Boeing told him that he had made history.

With his new certification, Sinegal is doing flight instruction at New Height’s Aviation in nearby Batesville, Mississippi.

In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that just 2.6% of America’s aircraft pilots were Black. However, a new wave of Black pilots are joining Sinegal in defying the numbers and achieving greatness.

This summer, Virginia native Madeline Swegle became the first Black woman to be named a fighter jet pilot in the U.S. Navy after completing the Tactical Air aviator syllabus, as Blavity previously reported.

The Navy lieutenant graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017 and is qualified to fly jets like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that Swegle is an inspiration to young Black girls with similar sky-high aspirations in July.

Last year, 16-year-old Sydney-Marie Flowers opted to pursue her private pilot’s license before obtaining her driver’s license.

After being honored as a top student at an aviation camp, Flowers was selected to participate in a national camp sponsored by the U.S. Air Force. Through the program, she took her first solo flight on the same field where the Tuskegee Airmen trained during World War II, which was the last training conducted on the field since.

“They only pick 20 students out of the whole entire country. I just felt that it was a real accomplishment for me, and also a privilege to step on the same field the Tuskegee airman stepped on,” she said.

from Blavity News

13 Tweets To Offer You Some Comic Relief During This Everlasting Election

People have spent the last 24 to 48 hours "doomscrolling" through their favorite social media sites or frantically watching cable news for some indication of how Election Day would turn out for both parties. 

As the results rolled in and defied the expectations of pollsters, the mood online took a very different tone as the night went on. 

Thankfully, people brought out some of their best jokes and memes to give us a little laugh while we wait for more finalized results.

Here is some of the funniest posts we saw:

from Blavity News

Black And Latino Mail-In Ballots Disproportionately Flagged For Alleged Errors

A large number of Black and Latino votes are at risk of being nullified during the 2020 election as electoral workers reject ballots that were allegedly submitted with errors. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Black and Latino votes make up a large portion of the flagged ballots from the 60 million mail-in ballots submitted. Some of the votes have been flagged for missing signatures, while others are being questioned for using signatures that don't match their voter registration forms or driver’s license. 

About 21,000 mail-in ballots in battleground states are facing the possibility of rejection due to these perceived errors, The New York Times reported. Election officials, however, in six of the eight swing states are still required to notify the voters about the errors and give them a chance to fix the mistakes, a process known as curing. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are two of the states where voters don't get a second chance. 

In North Carolina and Georgia, Black and Latino voters are three times as likely to have their ballots rejected, compared to white voters, according to the U.S. Elections Project. In Florida, Black voters are having their ballots rejected at twice the rate of white people, The New York Times reported.

A similar pattern has been seen in past years. In the 2018 Florida general election, for example, Black, Latino and other non-white voters had their ballots discarded at a rate more than twice of white people.

Dr. Daniel Smith, the author of a 2018 report for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), identified patterns of minority votes facing a higher number of rejections in the 2012 and 2016 Florida presidential elections.

“Younger and racial and ethnic minority voters were much more likely to have their vote-by-mail ballots rejected and less likely to have their vote-by-mail ballots cured when they are flagged for a signature problem,” he wrote in the report, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 

Advocates for social justice believe the disparity in flagging is a clear indication of suppressing minority votes.

“That’s not a coincidence,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told the Sun-Sentinel. “When there is a clear pattern, you should take it as a pattern.”

Phillip Jerez, of the Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access, said some voters may not be able to correct their mistake if they're given a second chance.

“The average voter, even if you give election officials your phone number and your email, you might miss it," he said. "I might not pick up that phone call, I might miss the email for some reason."

Sahil Mehrotra, the spokesperson for America Votes, said racial disparity is also a problem when it comes to giving voters a second chance.

“Our partners are contacting voters who might have an issue with their ballot every day to let them know how to fix it, in an effort to make sure every vote counts,” Mehrotra said.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the cure rate of ballots in the Florida counties of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade is 43.7% for Black voters and 48.4% for Hispanic voters. That's compared to 65.67% for white voters.

Human error has been a concern in some regions of the country as the ballot screening process is left in the hands of inexperienced people who are required to verify the signatures with their eyes and make decisions in less than five seconds. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, dozens of ballots were rejected in the 2016 presidential election due to mismatched signatures. 

In the current election, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are seeing rejection rates that have been far higher than the national average. In Miami-Dade County, the biggest county in Florida, about 2,600 ballots have been flagged for missing signatures, mismatched signatures and other errors. More than 2,500 ballots in the county have also been revived after voters corrected the problems. 

About 4,000 votes in Nevada have been flagged, while 8,000 ballots in North Carolina are at risk. According to The New York Times, the high number of absentee ballots was expected to cause an increase in rejected votes, but the early results of the election indicated a lower number of errors compared to past years. 

“You’re going to have 80 million absentee ballots cast, and hundreds of thousands may have problems. But 99% or more of them will count,” Nate Persily, a Stanford University professor of law, told The New York Times. 

from Blavity News

7 Major Election Night Wins

Election Day 2020 was extremely confusing, stressful, occasionally hopeful and often disheartening.

Above all, the unexpected and inconclusive results of November 3 left us as a nation unsure of the direction we will go in 2021 and beyond. While it will take a while to sort out the impact of this election, including who will control the presidency and U.S. Senate, we can highlight some of the most important results that came in yesterday.

from Blavity News

12% Of Black Voters With No Regard For Their Ancestors Cast Ballots For Trump

Black voters turned out in record numbers for President Donald Trump during the 2020 election, helping him secure 12% of the Black vote. According to an NBC News Exit Poll, this is the highest number of Black votes a Republican candidate has earned in the past 20 years. 

Republican Bob Dole was the last Republican to attract a similar amount of support, netting 12% of the Black vote in 1996. Trump also received a boost from another unexpected group with 32% of the Hispanic vote. This is the highest level of Hispanic support a Republican candidate has gained since George W. Bush, who amassed 44% of their votes in 2004. Two-thirds of Hispanic voters identified the economy as their main reason for voting for Trump. Black and Latino men especially turned out in higher numbers than usual to show support for the president, NBC News reported.

According to CNN, Black voters, in general, turned out to the polls in high numbers this year, citing racial injustice and police brutality as their main concerns amid the ongoing cases of Black people dying at the hands of law enforcement. Speaking to CNN, Black voters also expressed concerns about the president failing to condemn white supremacy. In addition, the fear of losing health benefits has been a key issue as the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact Black communities. 

Musa al-Gharbi, a sociology fellow at Columbia University, said there are still minority voters who don't see the president's controversial comments and policies as racist. In a column for NBC News, al-Gharbi cited a research study that surveyed white, Black and Hispanic voters to get their perspectives on certain messages considered to be coded white supremacy language.

"Across racial groups, most did not find the messages to be racist or offensive— despite researchers viewing these examples as clear-cut cases of racial dog whistles," al-Gharbi wrote.

The sociologist fellow also reviewed the numbers from the 2016 presidential election, concluding that Trump received a lower number of votes from white people than the previous Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. However, the president received a higher share of Black and Hispanic voters compared to Romney.

"That is, it was minorities, not whites, who proved more decisive for Trump’s victory," al-Gharbi wrote. 

As Blavity previously reported, Democratic California congresswoman Maxine Waters shamed Black Trump supporters last week when she appeared on Sirius XM’s The Joe Madison Show.

“Any of them showing their face, I will never ever forgive them for undermining the possibility to help their own people and their own communities,” Waters said.

Specifically targeting Black men, the congresswoman said they will go down in history as having done the most despicable thing to their families and communities if they vote for Trump.

“Black men who don’t understand, if they’re not listening to you, if they’re not listening to our voices, they have a price to pay,” Waters told Madison. "They will shamefully be accused of having attributed to the lack of equality life for the people they claim to love so much.”

Trump has publicly received support from Black celebrities such as Lil' Wayne and Kanye West. Other artists such as 50 Cent, Ice Cube and Lil' Pump have also leaned towards the president.

“They think somehow, if they are going to support Trump, that they’re gonna realize some big sums of money that’s gonna come to them through some damn proposals that they are going to present, and they’re going to be taken care of and they’re going to be able to manage all of this money. They are crazy,” Waters said about Black men. “They’re not going to get a dime from these people.”

from Blavity News

Monday, November 2, 2020

Florida Community Marks 100th Anniversary Of Ocoee Massacre In Which White Mob Killed And Terrorized Black Voters

On the day before the 2020 presidential election, Florida is commemorating the 100-year anniversary of a massacre which terrorized Black residents after a Black man tried to vote.

Julius "July" Perry was one of the many Black residents who was targeted during a Nov. 2, 1920 attack in Ocoee, Florida when an armed, white mob captured him and lynched him because his friend tried to vote, CBS Miami reported. Perry would assist with voter registration for Black residents. 

“To know that a loved one was lynched, for no reason, senseless, that is not something that you talk about day to day,” Sha’ron Cooley-McWhite, a descendant of Perry, told CBS Miami. 

According to the Zinn Education Project, at least 50 Black residents were killed during the massacre. Twenty-five Black homes, two churches and a fraternal lodge were all burned down in the massacre reports The Orlando Sentinel, who says the gruesome killings were committed with the intention of punishing terrifying Black voters. The attack is the largest incident of voting day violence in American history, according to the Orange County Regional History Center. 

The Ku Klux Klan also sent threatening letters to white people who tried to help Black voters. 

“You had the choice of burning in your home or going out and being shot or possibly worse,” Schwartz told CBS Miami.

“Up until about 1976 there’s no known Black resident, a permanent resident, of Ocoee for half of a century,” Schwartz added.

The land stolen from the Black families who fled their homes is now estimated to be worth $9 million. 

A Florida highway is now named in honor of Perry, who is remembered as a well-respect leader of the community and deacon. According to an essay titled, "Ocoee On Fire: The 1920 Election Day Massacre," Perry encouraged young Black people to be educated and stand up for their rights.

Florida has also implemented a bill which requires schools to teach about the Ocoee massacre.

“We’ve suffered in silence for a very long time. This has been a hurtful part of our past,” Cooley-McWhite said at a symposium hosted by the city’s human relations diversity board on Sunday, according to WMFE.

But much remains unknown about the massacre according to the Orlando Sentinel. 

"It’s white erasure,” Swartz said of historical records of the mass killing. “They just wanted it to go away like it never happened.”

Commissioner Larry Brinson Sr. said the city has made racial progress, but there is still work to do.

“And yet even on this day, this very day we stand before you, which is election time, we are still engaged in discourse concerning the disenfranchisement of African American voters in America,” Brinson said.

Commissioner George Oliver III, Ocoee’s first Black city commissioner, said discussions about the massacre will help the community move forward. The commissioner added that he was disappointed by a booklet produced for the week’s events, which didn't do enough to highlight the city's progress towards a more inclusive community. 

“We have so many reasons to celebrate. Unfortunately you cannot read about those things in this booklet which only presents a very narrow view of how we are moving forward," he said. "I would like that view to be expanded even more.” 

Voter suppression is still a concern today. In Texas, Republican lawmakers passed a law last year to ban temporary or mobile early voting sites, which are common on college campuses, USA TODAY reported.  Texas Democrats then filed a lawsuit to overturn the law, striving to protect young people’s right to vote. Social justice advocates in New York are also fighting to protect students' rights to vote as lawmakers create more hurdles. 

from Blavity News

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