In the March 2020 edition of Noire News I’ll be discussing progress made in the battle against the Ebola virus in West and Central Africa, the Honey Pot Racist Reviews controversy in America, the Windrush Scandal Report in the United Kingdom, and an update on Byron Allen’s case in America. In addition to the regular monthly memorial, I also take a moment to remember the lives lost to the coronavirus. And even in the midst of these difficult times, I share a few bits of good news.
Unfortunately, as of April 1st, according to the World Health Organization, there have been 40,500+ confirmed coronavirus deaths. I might not know the individual names of all the people who have lost their lives to this illness but the loss of their lives is just as deeply felt as the notable figures that I usually memorialize. It’s little solace but I offer my deepest condolences to their families and best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to both people infected by the virus and their loved ones.
November 30, 1941 – March 2, 2020
Barbara Neely was a mystery writer credited with writing the first Black female mystery series. Neely was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. During her post-college career, Neely contributed to the design and direction of a community-based corrections facility for women, directed a women’s advocacy organization, and produced/hosted radio programs. Her first short story was published in 1981 but it would be another decade before the first book of the Blanche White series was published cementing her legacy as an established author. Neely passed away at the age of 78 following a brief illness.
December 11, 1938 – March 6, 2020
McCoy Tyner was a jazz pianist who was notable for being a member of John Coltrane’s 1960s quartet. Born Alfred McCoy Tyner in Philadelphia, he began playing the piano at the age of 13. When his mother procured a piano for the house the Tyner home became a gathering place for other young local musicians. That combined with studying classical music and playing locally introduced Tyner to the industry. During the 1960s and beyond Tyner contributed to several acclaimed albums and would go on to win five Grammy awards as well as other accolades throughout his career.
Bishop Barbara C. Harris
June 12, 1930 – March 13, 2020
Bishop Barbara C. Harris was the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church. Harris was born in Philadelphia and spent several years of her adult life working in public and community relations. During the 1960s she became active in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in Mississippi voter registration drives as well as the Selma to Montgomery March. She joined the ministry relatively late in life and was ordained a priest at the age of 50 and ordained as a bishop approximately nine years later. Bishop Harris died at the age of 89 after being hospitalized for gastrointestinal issues.
April 24, 1961 – March 17, 2020
Roger Mayweather was a two-time boxing world champion and trainer. Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mayweather was a member of the famed Mayweather boxing family. He was a professional boxer in several divisions from 1981 to 1999 and won world title belts as a junior lightweight and junior welterweight. Towards the end of Mayweather’s career, he began training his nephew, Floyd Jr. Mayweather passed away at the age of 58 after years of health issues (some a result of his boxing career) and diabetes complications.
Fred “Curly” Neal
May 19, 1942 – March 26, 2020
Fred “Curly” Neal was a member of the famed Harlem Globetrotters for 22 years and appeared in over 6,000 games. Neal was born in Greensboro, North Carolina and attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte where he played on the school’s basketball team. He averaged 23 points per game during his senior year earning All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors but was not selected in the NBA draft. Neal instead found a home with the Harlem Globetrotters where he played from 1963 to 1985 and stood out for his ball-handling skills. Curly Neal was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and was the fifth Globetrotter to have his jersey retired in a special ceremony that took place at Madison Square Garden.
Rev. Joseph Lowery
October 6, 1921 – March 27, 2020
Reverend Joseph Lowery, affectionately referred to as the “Dean” of the Civil Rights Movement has died at the age of 98. Lowery grew up in Huntsville, Alabama where his father owned a shop at which he was assaulted at the age of 12 or 13 by a White police officer for not moving aside when the officer entered. The encounter motivated Lowery to fight back against injustice and led to him becoming an ordained minister and activist in Selma and Birmingham. Lowery’s activism officially began in the 1950s and he contributed to the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) at which he later served as president for over 20 years. Despite retiring in the 1990s, Lowery continued his activism, launching a voter education and registration organization, the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, in 1998 at which he remained active until his death. In celebration of his contributions, Lowery delivered the benediction at President Obama’s first inauguration and later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Congrats to Good Black News (GBN) on celebrating its 10th anniversary. Lori Lakin Hutcherson launched GBN as a Facebook Page when she realized that there were no websites dedicated to sharing positive news about the Black community.
- Atlanta couple Majesty and Elize, co-owners of INTL Realty Partners, have launched a new initiative to purchase and repurpose vacant and distressed homes for people in need of housing. Thus far the program has raised $2 million in funding as it works towards its goal of investing $100 million into neglected areas around the country.
- NBA legend Charles Barkley is planning to sell pieces of memorabilia from his storied career to help fund the construction of affordable housing in his hometown. Barkley explained that he valued the experiences of his career but the physical keepsakes don’t hold as much meaning to him and would be put to better use in helping to fund the projects he envisions for Leeds, Alabama.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock buried six feet down in the desert, then you’d know that the Coronavirus pandemic has been the major news story of the past month. There has been non-stop coverage of infection numbers and deaths, self-quarantine and shutdowns, as well as hoarding of toilet paper despite diarrhea not being a symptom of the illness. Much of the news coverage has focused on everything that’s going wrong and various acts of selfishness. I think some of the negativity is overblown and just a ploy to keep people panicked and tuned in. But, there have also been a lot of people doing incredibly generous things to help and support others.
- Cavanaugh Bell, a Maryland first-grader, used some of his savings to create care packages for seniors. Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation has donated $5 million to help prevent and treat COVID19 in underserved communities in America, Africa, and the Caribbean.
- Terence Lester, director of a nonprofit that serves the homeless, has created portable handwashing stations with water reservoirs and refillable soap dispensers. In the near term, the handwashing stations can be useful to the homeless while the technology might be of interest to RV manufacturers in the long term.
- The Ebony Foundation is working on an initiative to provide meals for children and seniors in Detroit and nearby counties. If successful, the food distribution model will be implemented in other communities across the country.
- Brothers Aaron and David Cabello launched Black and Mobile, a food delivery business, in 2019 to help Black-owned businesses establish and expand their digital footprint. Currently operating in Philadelphia and Detroit, the platform lists local Black-owned businesses, allows customers to place orders online, and provides an option for having orders delivered.
- Russell Wilson and Ciara have pledged 1 million meals in efforts to provide meals to those who are food insecure as well as under- or unemployed due to businesses shutting down or scaling back.
The Democratic Republic of Congo celebrated the discharge of its last Ebola virus patient from a treatment center. Individuals who had contact with the patient are being monitored. But, the woman’s discharge marks a turning point in the timeline of the 2018 outbreak. An estimated 2,226 people died in what became the second-deadliest outbreak of ebola. The outbreak lasted for almost two years and was further complicated by violence in parts of Congo’s northern region which resulted in the deaths of healthcare workers.
In February when parts of Asia began mobilizing against the coronavirus, four countries in West and Central Africa were pushing forward in the fight against the Ebola virus. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ghana, and Zambia procured an Ebola vaccine to defend their citizens against the Ebola Zaire virus.
The vaccine, Ervebo, is injectable and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is 98% effective at preventing the disease. It is also believed to be effective at reducing the likelihood of the infected dying from the disease. Manufactured by Merck, the vaccine was fast-tracked in what WHO noted as the “fastest vaccine prequalification process ever.” WHO also explained that the medication would not have to pass through clinical trials or other research safety measures. It’s estimated that the vaccine will be licensed and implemented as a part of the Ebola response in other African nations within weeks.
On the one hand, I think given the devastation caused by the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak as well as the more recent 2018 outbreak (which I don’t think I previously knew about) effective treatment is welcome. I’m not a medical, science, or health research professional so pardon what might be my ignorance. I was a bit uneasy because after reading the CNN article, it seemed like the medication was being rushed to market. I immediately wondered why new medications require rounds of testing and sometimes take years to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in America but it’s not required for this medication?
After doing a little bit of additional research, it seems that the drug won’t go through testing in African nations as it was already approved by the FDA in 2019. The drug was approved based on a study in Guinea during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.
Honey Pot Racist Reviews
In celebration of Black History and Women’s History Month Target released a collection of ads to celebrate Black-owned brands. One of the spots featured Honey Pot, a feminine hygiene company and its founder, Beatrice Dixon. Rather than focusing on the brand or selling its products, the commercial focused on Dixon’s experience as a business owner. Dixon spoke about the meaningfulness of her relationship with Target as well as hoping her experience would empower future and upcoming Black female entrepreneurs.
The ad was conceived as a feel-good spot intended to showcase Target’s commitment to supporting diversity amongst its suppliers. But, some viewers interpreted Dixon’s words as being exclusionary of White girls/women and deemed Honey Pot a racist company. There was an immediate backlash where people flocked to the review website Trustpilot to leave negative reviews, some littered with the n-word, on Honey Pot’s profile.
When news of the backlash and negative reviews spread across social media other people sprang into action to offer the company support. A flood of positive reviews was submitted to counterbalance the initial negative reviews, overwhelming the Trustpilot Honey Pot profile and leading to the page being paused. The wave of online support boosted the company’s sales by an estimated 40-50% over average daily sales. Several media outlets also picked up the story and journalists penned rather thoughtful articles that sought to explain why the initial backlash was tone-deaf and unwarranted.
While Dixon’s comment centered on Black girls, at no point in the commercial did she state that she didn’t want to inspire White girls or that the company’s products weren’t for them. Speaking directly to or having a conversation centered on Black girls rather than ALL girls is not exclusionary. Society in general, and entrepreneurship in particular, are rarely focused on females. And when the conversation about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is focused on females, rarely are Black women the examples discussed.
Generally speaking, when there are conversations and public discourse on topics about “women”, the representatives are usually White females. It falls in line with the saying, “All the women are white and all the Black people are men.” Being marginalized in society due to race and gender while also underrepresented in entrepreneurship means that Black girls need representation. There’s nothing wrong with someone who fits that bill saying that she hopes to provide much-needed representation.
Windrush Scandal Report
In March 2020, Wendy Williams (not that Wendy Williams), an inspector of constabulary released a report about the Windrush Scandal which included 30 recommendations as well as a call for the UK government to issue an apology. The 275-page report explained that the scandal occurred as a result of biased legislation between the 1960s-1980s which created a legal environment that allowed institutional racism to thrive. The report condemned the Home Office for implementing immigration policies heavily influenced by racial prejudice and hostile procedures aimed at driving Caribbean migrants out of the country they’d called home for decades.
Following World War II, the United Kingdom faced a labor shortage as it dealt with the herculean task of rebuilding. The British Nationality Act of 1948 formalized the long-held understanding that residents of British Commonwealth nations had the right to visit and relocate to the United Kingdom. Traveling internationally was prohibitively expensive for poorer residents of Commonwealth nations. Thus it was expected that residents of predominantly White Commonwealth nations would be the primary immigrants.
Residents from across the Commonwealth began immigrating to the UK to fill readily available jobs. On June 22, 1948, one of the first ships to arrive was the MV Empire Windrush which docked in Essex. But the ship’s crossing of the Atlantic was controversial as some politicians in Britain, which included Prime Minister Clement Attlee, attempted to prevent its departure or divert the ship to East Africa. It was initially assumed that Black and Brown people from British colonies would be unable to afford passage. But, when the Windrush arrived it brought nearly 500 immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, and other countries in the Caribbean.
Over the next 23 years, additional immigrants would arrive from the Caribbean as well as other Commonwealth nations. These immigrants who arrived between 1948 to 1971 would come to be known as the Windrush Generation. Some were adults traveling on their papers while others were children traveling on their parent’s passports. During this period government officials tried to walk back the provisions of the 1948 act in an attempt to stem the flow of undesired immigrants into the UK. A new law was enacted in 1971 which granted permission for indefinite residency to those who arrived before 1971 while adding stricter requirements for future immigrants hoping to settle in the UK. But, while the law granted indefinite residency, the British Home Office which tracks immigration did not maintain records of or provide immigrants with documentation of their status.
When the immigration laws changed again in 2012 many immigrants from the Windrush generation did not have the documentation that was now required to work, receive benefits, maintain driver licenses, etc. They began receiving notices in the mail that stated they were now considered to be in the country illegally. Home Office vehicles came to be known as “Go Home vans” because they were wrapped with signage intended to scare people into leaving the country. Informant hotlines were set up to encourage residents to text tips about illegal residents to the government.
Various initiatives and scare tactics were implemented to pressure these people into self-deporting to countries to which they had tenuous ties after not living there in 30+ years. Many people were held in detention centers and threatened with deportation while others were denied medical treatment leading to their deaths. Some people who lost their jobs were forced to sleep on the couches and floors of friends or relatives. And those who had no one else to turn to wound up selling their possessions and /or turned to living on the streets.
Byron Allen Update
Byron Allen’s $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast hit a roadblock this month when the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the suit. The unanimous decision narrowed the parameters for racial bias. When the case returns to San Francisco’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Allen will have to show that racial bias was not just a contributing factor but rather the sole factor for Comcast declining to carry his channels. In addition to continuing the court battle, Allen also promised to appeal to Congress and presidential candidates to overcome the Supreme Court’s ruling.
But, there were also some positive developments for Allen during March. Allen Media Group was one of about three companies to make bids on Tegna, Gannett’s spin-off station group that owns 62 major network affiliates in 51 markets. This follows his Entertainment Studios Networks’ $305 million acquisition of 11 television stations from USA Television Holdings LLC and USA Television MidAmerica Holdings in February. During the last six months, Allen’s companies have spent almost half a billion dollars on acquisitions. This is a part of Allen’s plans to grow his companies into a large broadcast television group over the next three years by spending about $10 billion on the acquisition of major network television stations.
Be Sure to Get Counted In the US Census
A lot of things have gotten lost in the shuffle due to the proliferation of the coronavirus. But, if possible, use some of the time you’re quarantined at home to complete the census survey. You should have received information in the mail about completing the census which should include a code and instructions for doing it online.
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