December 05, 2013
By DENISE LAVOIE
BOSTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s Kenyan-born uncle, who ignored a deportation order more than two decades ago, on Tuesday was granted permission to stay in the United States.
Judge Leonard Shapiro made the decision after Onyango Obama, 69, testified that he had lived in the U.S. for 50 years, been a hard worker, paid income tax and been arrested only once.
Asked about his family in the U.S., he said he has a sister and two nieces, then added, “I do have a nephew.” Asked to name the nephew, he said, “Barack Obama,” then added, “He’s the president of the United States.”
Onyango Obama, the half brother of the president’s late father, testified he has lived in the U.S. since 1963, when he entered on a student visa. He had a series of immigration hearings in the 1980s and was ordered to leave the country in 1992 but remained.
During his testimony, he identified himself as Obama Okech Onyango. Court records and authorities have identified him as Onyango Obama, and no explanation was given for the discrepancy.
Obama told the judge he had led a quiet, simple life, graduating from high school in Cambridge, then attending Boston University, where he received a degree in philosophy. He said he has worked for years as a manager at a family-owned liquor store in Framingham, just west of Boston. He also said he has worked for decades to help African immigrants find housing and settle in the U.S.
The judge, while announcing his decision, cited a law that entitles immigrants who are “out of status” to become permanent residents if they arrived in the U.S. before 1972, maintained continuous residence and are of good moral character.
Obama testified he hasn’t been back to Kenya since he entered the U.S. and said it would be difficult for him to return after all these years.
“Mr. Judge, America is a land of opportunities, a land of chances,” he said in a thick accent.
His immigration status didn’t become public until his 2011 drunken-driving arrest in Framingham. Police said after the arrest he told them, “I think I will call the White House.”
Asked about the exchange by a prosecutor on Tuesday, he said he might have said that but couldn’t recall.
The charge was dismissed after he completed a year of probation and 14 weeks of alcohol education classes.
The judge said he considered testimony about Obama’s character, including letters from people who praised him for being a “kind and decent person,” and considered the drunken-driving charge and allegations of discrepancies in what he told immigration officials 20 to 30 years ago.
“He appears to me to be a gentleman,” the judge said.
Obama testified that President Obama stayed with him for three weeks in Cambridge while the president was a student at Harvard Law School.
“In our tradition, your brother’s kids are your kids as well,” he said after the hearing.
Onyango Obama’s Cleveland-based immigration attorney, Margaret Wong, called him a “wonderful older gentleman.”
“He has earned his privilege to stay in the United States. He has been here for 50 years,” she said.
After the hearing, Obama quickly left the courthouse without speaking. Wong said he didn't receive any special treatment and was happy with the judge's decision.
If the government appeals, a notice must be filed within 30 days. Wong said Obama could get U.S. citizenship after five years.
The White House had said it expected the case to be handled like any other.
In the president’s memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” he writes about his 1988 trip to Kenya and refers to an Uncle Omar, who matches Onyango Obama’s background and has the same date of birth.
Onyango Obama is the second Obama family member to be found living illegally in the United States. His sister, Zeituni Onyango, the president’s aunt, was granted asylum in 2010 after her first asylum request in 2002 was rejected and she was ordered deported in 2004.
Onyango didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston. Her status was revealed just days before Barack Obama was elected in November 2008. At the time, then-candidate Obama said he didn’t know his aunt was living in the U.S. illegally and he believed laws covering the situation should be followed.
By Jason Straziuso
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Only four months after a raging fire engulfed the arrivals terminal at Kenya’s main airport, Kenya’s president on Tuesday broke ground on new construction that officials hope will cement the country as East Africa’s transportation leader.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the goal is to make Jomo Kenyatta International Airport one of the world's leading air terminals. The revamped airport will serve 20 million passengers a year, up from 6.5 million passengers currently. Construction on the new $635 million terminal is expected to last until 2017.
In August a small fire at the Nairobi airport swelled into a roaring inferno that destroyed the arrivals terminal. Firefighters were desperately short of equipment and crews took hours to control the flames. Kenyatta said the fire, which was caused by an electrical fault, “threatened our vision” of Nairobi’s airport being the gateway to Africa.
Tourism fuels Kenya's economy. The country’s safari parks and white-sand beaches beckon more than a million tourists per year, with most coming from the U.K. and the U.S.
Nairobi’s airport is far bigger than any other in the region, but the cement structure is old, cramped and uncomfortable. Passengers are often made to walk across a busy tarmac to board their plane, one of the reasons the United States does not allow direct flights from Kenya.
Aly-Khan Satchu, who once ran the global trading desks in emerging markets for Credit Suisse First Boston and now runs his own financial management business in Nairobi, said Kenya must cement its position as a transportation hub by laying more infrastructure groundwork. With the new airport terminal, Kenya is making a play to be the Africa-Asia transit hub, he said.
“All the U.S. multinationals setting up shop here like Kenya Airway’s routes into other African countries,” Satchu said. “But if Kenya Airways is going to be an airline leader it has to have a first class airport. The airport experience now is just so awful.”
During Tuesday’s groundbreaking, Kenyatta noted that airports boost economic growth and give tourists and businessmen a first impression of the country, and can thus influence foreign direct investment.
Kenya in recent days also launched a multi-billion-dollar railway project to link its port city of Mombasa with Nairobi, a line that will run on to Uganda and possibly Rwanda and South Sudan.
Both transportation projects are being financed largely with Chinese money. Kenyatta on Tuesday thanked the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and China, the only nation he singled out individually.
Construction projects in Kenya are prone to costly delays and corruption. Kenyatta urged project managers to overcome those hurdles.
November 28, 2013
By Princess Manasseh
LAWT Contributing Writer
Reverend Jesse Jackson celebrated his 72nd birthday Friday, November 22 with the help of his longtime friends and political allies Andrew Young, Maxine Waters, and Karen Bass.
More than a month after Jackson’s actual birthday – which falls on October 8 – the celebration for the past fifteen years has doubled as a Rainbow Push and Citizen Education fundraising event and awards dinner for Jackson’s non-profit organization.
Jackson arrived to the celebration directly from shooting the Arsenio Hall show.
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the celebration brought out hundreds of people; many personal friends, notables and supporters of his non-profit’s work.
Jackson’s eldest daughter, Santita served as mistress of ceremonies.
A variety of news clippings were played over the course of the program displaying highlights of Jackson’s work as a political activist, primarily highlighting his expertise in negotiating hostage situations. Jackson has freed political prisoners abroad on six different occasions, in each instance, acting without the support of the American government.
Taking no breaks from the fight against injustice, Jackson told the Sentinel on November 22 that currently his biggest concern is developing a comprehensive plan for reconstruction.
“The voting rights act is under threat again with streams of suppression,” he said, referring to the recent government shutdown.
“Those who close the doors of congress also want to close the door on access to voting.
“Secondly,” the Reverend continued, “poverty is a threat to us. We not only need affordable healthcare we also need affordable food, and drinkable water, and a job, a place to stay, and secure education.”
Jackson shared his birthday spotlight with eight community servants honored with awards during the gala.
Grammy Award-winning singer, Chaka Kahn was another celebrity attendee. Kahn took to the stage and sang happy birthday to her good friend Jackson followed by a crowd prompted performance of “My Funny Valentine.”
Tony Cornelius, son of the late Don Cornelius, was also a guest.
“Reverend Jackson has always been a family friend of ours. He’s also supported the Cornelius Family Foundation and I’ve always supported him as well. He and my father were very, very close.”
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Several of the Washington, D.C.-area’s most celebrated civil rights leaders converged on Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW recently to pay homage to a man who gave his life in the quest for freedom.
Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran who lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., who started a public campaign after he was denied admittance to the then-all White Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of changing minds about letting him into the university, however, he was framed for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for seven years to quiet his voice.
As his condition grew grave, throngs of supporters were successful in getting him released. He died in July 1963.
On Nov. 14, several of the late Kennard’s friends from the Civil Rights Movement came together to celebrate him, including Dorie Ladner and her sister, Dr. Joyce Ladner, former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees.
Both helped in the effort to free Kennard. Also at the program were Julian Bond, the former congressman and NAACP president emeritus who also fought for freedom as a SNCC member; and Dick Gregory, who paid for Kennard to travel to Chicago to be treated for his illness shortly after he was released from prison, six months before he died.
Speakers described Kennard as a soft-spoken peaceful man who fought a gentle fight for his rights and the rights of others. His sword was his pen, which he wielded mightily, writing eloquent arguments on behalf of his cause and the wrongs of segregation. To quiet him, a jury convicted him of theft in a conspiracy that included some of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Hattiesburg.
“Now this principle is an easy one for us to follow, for it holds as true in human history, especially American History, as it does in logic,” Kennard wrote to the Hattiesburg American in 1959. “Reason tells us that two things, different in location, different in constitution, different in origin, and different in purpose cannot possibly be equal. History has verified this conclusion.”
The Ladner sisters spoke affectionately about Kennard. Members of the Split This Rock D.C. Youth Slam read excerpts of Kennard letters. Eddie Holloway, the current president of the USM, talked about the school Kennard so wanted to attend.
A portrait of Kennard by Robert Shetterly, a member of Americans Who Tell the Truth, was unveiled. Previously, Shetterly has portrayed Gregory, Rep. John Lewis and civil rights martyr Ella Baker.
Years after his death, Kennard’s name was cleared.
By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times
Attorneys for Marissa Alexander, 33, the Florida mother of three who has spent over 1,000 days in jail and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot over the head of her allegedly abusive husband, have won a new trial for their client. Now they and Alexander are hopeful that a Jacksonville judge will grant her bond. Last September, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Alexander, stating that the jury had received incorrect directions. A new trial has been set for March 31, 2014.
Alexander’s case garnered national attention after she was denied immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years under the 10-20-Life statutes for discharging a firearm during certain felonies. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution says that despite her claim that she was only firing a warning shot and that the bullet hit a wall and not the ceiling, that it could have killed her husband, Rico Gray or his children. Gray has two children, both of whom are now in his custody. The couple also has an infant child together. Her attorney was unable to provide information about the whereabouts of the youngest child and who is currently caring for the child.
In court last week, Bruce Zimmet, one of the lead attorneys for Alexander, argued that she poses no threat to society or to her husband with whom she is now finalizing a divorce.
“We were pleased that the appellate court reversed her conviction and allowed for a retrial,” Zimmet said. “We have already had part of the bond hearing and the judge has reserved ruling on bond until we file additional papers that reply to the state’s reply. The judge will then decide if bond should be granted. Of course Marissa wants to get home to her children and we believe that as she has no criminal record except this matter involving her husband, that she should be granted her freedom until the trial.”
Zimmet, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1976 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He is joined by Mike Dowd, a New York-based pioneering attorney in the battered women’s movement. Both have taken on the case pro bono.
“After she was convicted and sentenced in 2012, I was asked to review the case and after looking at the transcript I believed our team could help this woman — a first offender who got a 20-year sentence.”
Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, recently spoke to members of the media at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville and explained how the events transpired in the August 2010 shooting. He claims it was his wife who first began punching him after he confronted her about texts she had sent to her ex-husband. He says that he was trying to take his two sons away from their home and was getting their things together when he made the remark that their newborn baby must have been fathered by her ex. That’s when he said she uttered several expletives, went to the garage to her truck and returned with her gun. After firing the weapon, he says he grabbed the children and ran.
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