June 20, 2013

By Xavier Higgs

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

The Black Prosecutors Associa­tion of Los Angeles held its 2nd annual Alfred Jenkins awards ceremony last Thursday attended by the Who's Who of local legal society.

In a rare appearance together, the chief law enforcement officers in the State of California were honored together. The ceremony honorees included Kamala Harris, California attorney general, Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles district attorney, Andre Birotte, Jr., U.S. attorney Central District of California, and Ron Brown, Los Angeles County public defender.

It was a big moment for Lacey, who talked about the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech.

“I believe we are witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream,” she tearfully reminded the crowd.

She also emphasized the importance of black prosecutors in this society.

For Lacey, Birotte, and Harris this was the pinnacle of climbing the often-unjust world of politics. Each toiled away as low and mid level prosecutors before becoming the first African Americans to hold their respected positions.

John Mack says, “we should celebrate Andre Birotte, Jackie Lacey, and Kamala Harris because not only are they African Americans but they are at the top of their game.  He adds, “they earned it and they are the absolute best.”

The ceremony, billed as a tribute to the “Champions of Justice” is a fundraiser for the BPLA Scholarship fund. More than 300 glittering guests — women in elegant gowns and men in black business suits and tuxedos gingerly socialized with the four guess of honor.

Still, the evening’s festivities included photo ops with one or more of the honorees.

Harris praised U.S. Attorney Birotte as one of the “finest U.S. Attorney’s in the United States.” She also reminded the crowd that the penal code was not designed just to protect “snow white.”

Alfred Jenkins, Retired District Attorney, and considered the Godfather of many in the room, says it’s overwhelming to be a part of the pipeline of young black people succeeding in the law.

“It’s wonderful to get your recognition while you are here to appreciate it,” says Jenkins. “It’s a marvelous feeling.”

Birotte echoed the sentiment of the other honorees. “I am in this position because of all the people that supported me.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 20, 2013

By Shonassee Shaver

 

New Orleans civil rights advocate, Rev. Samson “Skip” Alexander is a legend among the many leaders who have helped affect social change. Samson was a close friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and he is responsible for the treasured photo capturing Coretta Scott King, sitting front row with her children mourning her husband’s death. Samson had taken and retains many historical images. It is no surprise that he is the owner of this momentous photograph.

Rev. Samson aka “Skip” recalls that day where the FBI was on patrol, lurking for misconduct and suspicious behavior.

“They were hurt about their father’s passing.  As we marched to Morehouse College for his memorial, I remember them looking somber as if they were sleep walking” said Rev. Samson.  Legendary boxing champ Muhammad Ali, President Richard Nixon were among many of the influential people to flow from the balcony of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. King’s funeral was held.

“There were dignitaries at his funeral,” Samson recalled.

“Kings and queens from all around the world (Africa and India) came to show their respects for Dr. King.”

Samson had a hand in the funeral’s seating process, he said. He was also among the news press, accompanying Ebony Magazine, Pittsburg Courier, The Chicago Defender and Life and Times. “I was in charge of placing thousands people from around the world in the backyard of the church” he said. 

“The FBI had told me I could not take any pictures because of the flash.  The flash would spark concerns of gun firing at Dr. Kings memorial.”

Not likely to abide by law officials, he went ahead and took the picture. 

“I was able to use light that was available to me.  I learned this technique in the air force,” said Rev. Samson. Not wanting to get caught taking a picture. He gave the photo to someone unknown at the time, later to be someone from JET magazine. 

Samson seems modest about his accomplishments, remaining humble and down to earth through all his triumphs.

 “I was nobody special,” he stated when asked about his triumphs.

“I did not think I was making history at the time. We were doing what was needed during that time. We knew that in order to be free, we had to fight for desegregation.”

He candidly recalls the day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

“I was stunned and dumb founded.  The FBI told me not to leave. I remember blood coming down the 2nd floor.  I was a young guy” said Rev. Samson.

King had been the president of the Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC).  Rev. Samson worked for the International Representatives of the American Federation of the Sate County and Municipal employees AFI-CIO. 

“SCLC had no money and we would help them raise money for the organization, while he spoke to unions” he said.  

In Memphis, Rev. Samson conducted a strike with the sanitation workers.  Coincidently this was done while staying at the Lorraine Hotel where King was staying when he was assassinated. His goal, to get sanitation cards signed, was short lived by the incident.

Many were uncertain if the Civil Rights Movement could go on.  Rev. Samson had his doubts that the movement would not be as effective with King gone. “I thought so. No other man in the world was spontaneous as he was. He could rally up a crowd. He could bring together good men and bad men”.  Dr. King was a phenomenal man.

Sampson fondly remembers the police shouting at him to get out of the way.

“I had no identification or anything,” he said.

“I ‘boguarded’ my way through. I had to take the picture, even if I was going to jail.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 13, 2013

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS

Associated Press

 

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Civil rights leader Medgar Evers helped create a more inclusive and open Mississippi by increasing black voter registration, Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday during a service marking the 50th anniversary of Evers’ assassination.

A racially diverse crowd of more than 150 people gathered outside the Mississippi Museum of Art in downtown Jackson for speeches, gospel singing and the ringing of bells to remember the NAACP leader who was killed outside his home just after midnight on June 12, 1963. Evers was 37.

The Republican governor stood by Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, just before going on stage to speak. Bryant said Evers “paid the ultimate sacrifice” in challenging segregation.

“The young people that I met, who were here reading today, live in a vastly different Mississippi than existed 50 years ago because of the hard work of men like Medgar Evers and women like Myrlie Evers,” said Bryant, 58. “So, as we ring the bell today, we pay homage to them.”

Evers, a World War II veteran from Newton, Miss., was hired in 1954 as the state’s first field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In addition to working for black voter registration, he led a boycott of downtown Jackson’s white-owned businesses, where black customers received shoddy service and few black clerks were hired.

Evers also investigated violence against African-Americans, including the 1955 killing of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was said to have whistled at a white woman working in a grocery store in rural Money, Miss. Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s home near Money and was beaten beyond recognition and shot in the head. His body was weighted down with a fan from a cotton gin and dumped into the Tallahatchie River.

Till's mother allowed photos of his brutalized body to be published in Jet magazine, and the images galvanized the civil rights movement.

Simeon Wright is one of Till’s cousins and was in the home the night Till was taken. Wright said during the memorial service Wednesday that Evers was “a light in a dark place” during the investigation of the slaying — a crime for which two white men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury.

Wright said Evers taught him how to give a sworn statement to law enforcement.

“He said, ‘Whatever you do, tell the truth. Tell the truth,’” Wright said.

During the service Wednesday, four young adults read several quotes from religious leaders and civil-rights activists, including this 1961 statement from Evers, which was printed on a banner with a black-and-white photo of him: “Let men of good will and understanding change the old order, for this is a new day.”

In 1967, Democrat Robert Clark of Ebenezer became the first black Mississippian since Recon­struction to win a seat in the state House of Representatives. Clark, who knew Evers, served 36 years. By the time he retired, black representation in the state House and Senate was almost equal to Mississippi’s 38 percent black population — a change that was largely made possible by two federal laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“I did not take a single vote during those 36 years that Medgar would not have taken himself,” Clark said.

Hollis Watkins, 71, of Jackson, was a teenager when he became involved in civil rights work and met Evers, who was 15 years older. He said Evers was not afraid to speak truth to power.

“Medgar did his job,” Watkins said. “The question becomes: How about us today? Are we doing our work?”

A white supremacist, Byron De La Beckwith, was tried twice for Evers’ slaying in the 1960s, but all-white juries deadlocked without convicting or acquitting him. After a reopened investigation, Beckwith was convicted of murder in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison. He was 80 when he died in custody in 2001.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 13, 2013

Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

 

Eritrean or Sudanese people, who have sought asylum in Israel.

Israel is reportedly in talks with two other countries to secure a similar agreement.

Few other details of the transfer were available. Israeli Army Radio reported that the unnamed country was in east Africa and did not suffer from any unrest that would harm the migrants. The Haaretz newspaper said that Israel had agreed to provide agricultural expertise as part of the deal.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to provide details of the arrangement, including the name of the African country, within seven days.

Or Kashti, an analyst writing for Haaretz, condemned the deal. “As if it were an export company, the State of Israel is trying to ship tens of thousands of people from Eritrea and Sudan to other countries, out of sight and out of mind. The main thing is that they will fly away from here. Price isn’t particularly important, nor is their fate in their new countries.

“Israeli imperviousness, the turning away from the distress of others, marks a new stage that is far from surprising. This is a natural progression from the systematic disregard for claims of asylum that were filed to the embarrassing legal amendment that enabled the detainment in prison facilities and incitement bordering on dehumanization. What is being discussed aren’t humans, but objects.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 13, 2013

By JASON STRAZIUSO

Associated Press

 

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former President Nelson Mandela began responding better to treatment Wednesday morning for a recurring lung infection following “a difficult last few days,” South Africa’s president said.

President Jacob Zuma told parliament that he is happy with the progress that the 94-year-old is making following his hospitalization on Saturday.

Mandela spent a fifth straight day Wednesday in a Pretoria hospital, where he was visited by one of his daughters and two granddaughters.

Zuma noted that Wednesday marked the 49th anniversary of the sentencing of Mandela to life in prison in 1964. He said “our thoughts” are with Mandela and his family “on this crucial historical anniversary.”

“We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult last few days,” Zuma said. “We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world.”

Zuma on Wednesday applauded the legacy of Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. South Africa's government disbanded its official policy of apartheid — racial segregation and discrimination — in 1994.

“Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do,” Zuma said.

Mandela, the leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mandela's fourth time being admitted to a hospital for treatment since December. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wished Mandela a “speedy recovery” on Tuesday.

Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, visited his grandfather on Wednesday and said the family has been deeply touched by the outpouring prayers and messages of goodwill from around the world. He said the family is satisfied with the care Mandela is receiving.

Zuma used Wednesday’s budget address to parliament as an occasion to highlight the work carried out by the African National Congress, the party that Mandela led to South Africa’s presidency, over the last 19 years.

South Africa’s economy has expanded 83 percent since 1994 and per capita income increased by 40 percent, Zuma said. But the recession in Europe, South Africa’s biggest trading partner, has hit Africa's biggest economy hard, and he said South Africa — which has experienced deadly labor strife in recent years — must move past labor violence.

The vestiges of apartheid, Zuma said, remain in South Africa: Black South Africans have less education and fewer skills than whites because of the apartheid era. As part of promoting national reconciliation, the implementation of black economic empowerment policies will continue, he said. Direct black ownership in Johannesburg's stock market is less than 5 percent.

“In addition, annual Employment Equity reports indicate that white males still own, control and manage the economy,” Zuma said.

The government is amending the black economic empowerment law to address some of these challenges, he added.

Outside Mandela’s Johannesburg home, well-wishers continued to leave tributes to the former president. A neighbor, Zaheerah Bham’Ismail, said it’s an emotional time for South Africans because Mandela “portrays the entire legacy of what everybody has fought for and our ideals.”

“But at the same time we know we have to say goodbye at some point because he needs ... his peace, as well. But I think in order to hold onto him, we’ve got to go back to fight for the ideals that he fought for,” Bham’Ismail said. 

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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