As another month of 2020 draws to a close, let’s discuss the what’s up and what’s happening.
Unfortunately, the COVID death toll has continued to rise with US deaths totaling 100,000 and worldwide deaths 350,000 as of May 26th. Still a tremendous loss of life but somewhat of a decrease since April. A decline that I hope continues and begins to substantially drop off. I wish peace and blessings for everyone that has passed away and offer my condolences to their families. And while every life is important I’d like to take a moment to offer a memorial to a few notable people who passed this month.
September 26, 1960 – May 7, 2020
Andre Harrell was born in the Bronx and got his start in the music industry as a member of the hip-hop group Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. The group’s trademark suits and ties stood out from other groups at the time who wore either stage costumes or streetwear. Harrell got into the business side of the record industry by spending a few years working at Def Jam Records before launching his own company Uptown Records. Through his storied label, Harrell would help to launch the careers of several artists and executives who would go on to become icons in Hip Hop and R&B such as Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mary J. Blige, Teddy Riley, and Jodeci. Also, Harrell produced movies and television shows and briefly served as the CEO of Motown Records. Andre Harrell died at the age of 59 from congestive heart failure.
I was especially shocked by Harrell’s passing as I had the opportunity to briefly meet and speak with him while I was in college and found him to be a positive and encouraging person.
December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia the third of his parent’s 12 children. His family was heavily involved in the church with several family members being preachers. Thus Richard’s early forays into music came from singing gospel and learning to play the piano at church. Growing up in a religious environment at the time he did also meant that when he began to show early signs of being a homosexual he was kicked out of his family’s home at 13. But a silver lining was his being taken in by a White family that allowed him to hone his craft at their club. In his early 20s, Richard attended a recording session in New Orleans and played “Tutti Frutti” during a break and the rest was history. During the 1950s he would churn out several hit songs that would shape both the genre of rock ‘n’ roll and its musicians. Little Richard died at the age of 87 from bone cancer following several years of illness.
December 21, 1953 – May 10, 2020
Born in Miami, to a mother who was active in the church and taught her children to sing, Bessie Regina Norris began singing at the age of two. Coming from a gospel background, her mother was resistant to her singing secular music but Norris would eventually release her first album at the age of 12 under the name Betty Wright. A few years later, though still in her teens, she released the hit song “Clean Up Woman” and the classic “Tonight Is the Night”. Throughout her career, Wright also wrote, arranged, and produced for other musicians and her music was sampled by many. Betty Wright died from cancer at the age of 66 after having spent the majority of her life in the music business.
Fred L. Davis
May 8, 1934 – May 12, 2020
Fred L. Davis was a Memphis, Tennessee based businessman and civil rights leader. Davis was elected to the Memphis City Council in 1967 where he later served as its first Black chairman. In 1968, Davis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in support of the Memphis sanitation strike and was with him during key moments of his visit to Memphis. After King’s assassination, Davis continued the push for civil rights and the desegregation of the city’s schools. He also launched one of the South’s first Black-owned insurance companies. Davis died at the age of 86 following an illness.
April 10, 1946 – May 14, 2020
Bob Watson spent six decades working in Major League Baseball (MLB) in various roles. After joining the Houston Astros at the age of 20 he spent 14 seasons playing for the team. He made the All-Star team twice and is credited with hitting MLB’s 1,000,000th run. Later in his career, Watson played for the Boston Red Socks, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves. In 1993, Watson became the general manager of the Astros making him the second Black general manager in Major League Baseball history. Two years later he became the first Black general manager to win the World Series Championship after joining the Yankees organization. Bob Watson died at the age of 74 from kidney disease.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman
January 21, 1929 – May 16, 2020
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman grew up very poor in Seaboard, North Carolina and had to drop out of junior high school to help provide for his family. After getting married in the 1950s he relocated to Washington, DC and supported his family with catering jobs. His best friend got him a job at the White House in 1957 where he began as a cleaner during President Eisenhower’s second term and became a butler when he was promoted by Jackie Kennedy. He would continue to work at the White House until he retired in 2012 after serving 11 presidents. Jerman died at the age of 91 from coronavirus complications.
January 13, 1981 – May 17, 2020
Shad Gaspard was a professional wrestler who was best known for the time he spent wrestling with the WWE. He also worked as an actor performing voice and motion capture work for video games and appearing in several television shows, movies, and a play based on the life of Jack Johnson. While swimming with his son at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, the pair were caught in a riptide and Gaspard insisted that lifeguards rescue his son first. When the lifeguards returned they could not find Gaspard but they continued their search efforts. Unfortunately, Gaspard was found deceased a few days later when his body washed up on the shores of Venice Beach.
January 20, 1929 – May 24, 2020
James Wilbur Cobb was born in Washington, DC and began playing the drums as a teen after saving up money for a drum set from his job as a busboy. He soon began playing professional gigs and within a few years was backing iconic musicians. Among his credits were performances and legendary recording sessions with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, and Miles Davis. In his later years, Cobb became a bandleader and mentored younger artists. He continued to perform until his death at the age of 91 from lung cancer.
The Injustice System
Unfortunately, in news that will surprise no one, there have been more instances of Black people being harassed and killed by the police and over-zealous White citizens.
In May, three men were arrested in connection with the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. On February 23rd, Arbrey was out jogging in Glynn County, Georgia when he was confronted by a father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, who were armed with guns. The men later told police that they had followed Arbery in their pick-up truck because he resembled someone who’d recently broken into properties in the area though no such burglaries had been reported to the police. The McMichael’s argued that they were protecting the neighborhood from a potential burglar and shot Arbery in self-defense as he fought with Travis McMichael.
The shooting didn’t get much attention until the GBI arrested the McMichaels and a cellphone recording of the incident was made public. The local police, prosecutors, and judges came under fire for failing to charge and prosecute the McMichaels. Some believe that the lack of action was an attempt to coverup the incident due to Gregory McMichael being a former police officer and retired investigator for the local district attorney. William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr. who recorded the shooting, was later arrested as it’s believed that he was not just a bystander but a participant who assisted the McMichaels with trapping Arbery.
In March, Breonna Taylor, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in Louisville, Kentucky was shot and killed by police officers who were executing a warrant. The police were looking for a suspected narcotics dealer, Jamarcus Glover, who they suspected used Taylor’s home to stash drugs and money. Taylor had previously dated Glover but at the time police entered her apartment, Glover had already been located 10 miles away.
When the police arrived at Taylor’s home in the early hours of the morning they had a “no-knock” warrant. This allowed them to enter the home without identifying themselves as police officers. A defense attorney representing Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, explained that Walker, a licensed gun owner, opened fire in self-defense because he thought they were being burglarized. A police officer was shot and wounded which resulted in other officers returning fire. Taylor was struck by eight of the 20 bullets that officers shot into the home.
The warrant did not name Taylor or Walker and no drugs or other evidence of illegal activity were found in the home. Taylor’s family has since filed a lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department. Walker was arrested but charges were later dropped and he was released from custody. With much of the news focused on COVID, Taylor’s death didn’t receive much attention until it began to be discussed on social media. Since then, the Mayor of Louisville has called for an investigation, officers are now required to wear body cams, and no-knock warrants must be signed off on by a judge and the police chief or a designee.
Echoing the death of Eric Garner, another Black man, George Floyd, died after being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A passerby recorded police officers restraining Floyd on the ground with one officer placing his knee on Floyd’s neck as he shouted that he couldn’t breathe. Officers initially stated that Floyd had resisted arrest which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey later disputed and publicly announced that the four officers involved had been fired.
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers have been recorded violently restraining and arresting people of color for social distancing violations. This is in stark contrast to the treatment that residents receive in predominantly White areas and neighborhoods. Multiple Black men have been shown being thrown to the ground and violently punched while restrained for being on the street, standing too close to each other, or not wearing a mask. Meanwhile, White residents relaxing in Central Park and Brooklyn’s Domino Park are treated humanely, not bothered if they aren’t complying with the COVID rules, and are simply offered a mask if they don’t have one.
In Oklahoma City, a Black delivery driver and his co-worker were blocked-in by a White resident of a gated community who wanted to know what they were doing in the area. They’re in a delivery truck. What would you guess they’re doing? And if they look suspicious why didn’t you call the cops instead of detaining them for almost an hour? To make matters worse a second man approached the delivery van demanding to know why they were there.
At this point, I don’t even know what to say because so many people have lost their lives just minding their business and going about their day. I’m tired of these incidents occurring and things seemingly remaining the same. All I can say is try to be safe from COVID, overly aggressive police officers, and self-appointed neighborhood watch people.
Sudanese Government Bans Female Genital Mutilation
Sudan’s government has criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM) which now carries a three-year prison sentence and fine for those who violate the law. This follows the November 2019 repeal of a law intended to control women’s behavior and style of dress in public. FGM has been legally outlawed in several African countries but continues to be widespread. The fear is that as with other countries that have introduced similar legislation, the practice will be driven underground. The Sudanese government views this a step towards eradicating the social practice but recognizes that a complete victory will require ongoing community outreach and increased awareness.
Joe Biden’s Ignorance
I’ve made it a point to not discuss politics because generally speaking, I don’t care for most politicians regardless of their political party. I don’t believe that the parties or their politicians are that far apart with regards to how they deal with addressing the needs of Black voters and communities. They’re two sides of the same coin.
But, this most recent in a string of Joe Biden gaffes just irritated me. He’s not stupid but is very ignorant and arrogant. I’m certainly not in the Trump or Republican camp but I also detest what seems to be an ingrained belief within the Democratic Party that democratic candidates regardless of who they are or their platform are automatically entitled to the Black vote. I firmly believe that this two-party system is not working as quite often it boils down to choosing between who you dislike the least. Sitting out elections is not the solution but I understand feeling like there is no real candidate to vote for.
Whether liberal or conservative, I do not want any politician to tell me that I’m obligated to vote for them. Especially if they haven’t laid out a plan for how they specifically intend to serve my interests and the interests of my community. And most certainly do not attempt to be overly familiar to the point of questioning my Blackness.
First off, a big shout out to all the recipients of college acceptance letters and 2020 graduates, especially because you guys worked so hard and most were unable to have graduation ceremonies or proms. We’re also in the midst of what is usually wedding season and I know several people who have had to cancel or postpone their weddings because of restrictions on gatherings. But congrats to all the couples who had virtual ceremonies or other alternatives.
I find that the mainstream news both ignores the important subjects and positive stories in favor of whatever will generate ratings. But it’s important to have balance, varied perspectives, and context. We’re still dealing with a lot of difficulties but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction though not at the pace that we would prefer. The last few months have been rough but I’ve also been very happy to hear positive stories of people recovering from COVID and people pulling together to help others. So a round of applause to the world and everyone trying to be a positive presence in it.
Magic Johnson’s $100 Million Small Business Fund
Magic Johnson’s EquiTrust Life Insurance Co. is teaming up with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help provide $100 million in small business loans to minority- and women-owned companies. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was established in April but quickly ran out of funds and many minority-owned companies were unable to secure financing because they lacked relationships with the large banks that were distributing the funds. EquiTrust’s loans are intended to help companies continue operations and retain their workforces.
Kandra Albury Teaching with C.A.P.E.
Over the last eight years, Kandra Albury has been working to help prevent and raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse, bullying, and illegal drug use in children. Through her company Kids’n Capes, Inc. she has developed COURAGEously Affirming and Protecting through Education (C.A.P.E.). CAPE’s curriculum provides parents, teachers, and organizations with age-appropriate educational materials that address body safety, bullying prevention, peer pressure, and avoiding illegal drug use.
Detroit’s Food Businesses Feed Homeless Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A group of chefs in Detroit has teamed up to provide meals for families living in the city’s homeless shelters. Restaurants, warehouses, and distributors donated food while culinary students volunteered their time. The initiative fed about 400 people on an average day. In a little over a month, 20,000 meals were provided for 9,000 people.
3 Wrongfully Convicted Black Men Receive $18 Million Settlement
Three men were awarded an $18 million settlement from the city of Cleveland. Brothers Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu along with their friend Rickey Jackson were wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975 and spent almost 40 years behind bars. The conviction was largely based on the testimony of Eddie Vernon, a boy who was 12 years old and the time, and later testified that he was threatened by police and forced to lie.
Chelsea’s Charity Donates Art Kits to Kids
10-year-old Chelsea Phaire launched a non-profit with her parents shortly after her birthday. Through Chelsea’s Charity, she visited children at homeless shelters, foster care homes, women’s shelters, and schools impacted by gun violence with her mother to provide them with art kits. The COVID pandemic has prevented Chelsea from meeting the other kids in person but she has continued to distribute art kits through the mail.
Kreps, Daniel. 2020. “Andre Harrell, Founder of Uptown Records, Dead at 59.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. May 10, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/andre-harrell-uptown-records-dead-obit-996655/.
“Little Richard.” 2020. Biography.com. A&E Networks Television. May 9, 2020. https://www.biography.com/musician/little-richard.
Kelley, Sonaiya. 2020. “Soul Singer Betty Wright Dies at 66.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. May 10, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2020-05-10/soul-singer-betty-wright-dies-at-66.
Fred L. Davis
The Associated Press. 2020. “Civic Leader Fred L. Davis Dies in Memphis; Marched with MLK.” AJC. Atlanta Journal Constitution. May 13, 2020. https://www.ajc.com/news/civic-leader-fred-davis-dies-memphis-marched-with-mlk/r59MnVj6EDXW5sEDRD98WO/.
“Bob Watson, Former All-Star and Championship GM, Dies at 74.” 2020. ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. May 15, 2020. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29177411/bob-watson-former-all-star-championship-gm-dies-74.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman
Ruane, Michael E. 2020. “Longtime White House Butler and Friend of Presidents Dies of Covid-19.” The Washington Post. WP Company. May 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/white-house-butler-wilson-jerman/2020/05/21/f599a600-9b7e-11ea-a2b3-5c3f2d1586df_story.html.
- “WWE’s Shad Gaspard Dies Saving His Son.” 2020. BBC News. BBC. May 21, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-52756408.
- “Shad Gaspard.” 2020. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. May 25, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shad_Gaspard.
Weiner, Natalie. 2020. “Jimmy Cobb, The Pulse Of ‘Kind Of Blue,’ Dies At 91.” NPR. NPR. May 25, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/05/25/845814061/jimmy-cobb-the-pulse-of-kind-of-blue-dies-at-91.
- Young, Jabari. 2020. “Magic Johnson Offering $100 Million in Loans to Minority-Owned Businesses Left out of PPP Loans.” CNBC. May 19, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/19/magic-johnson-offering-100-million-in-loans-to-minority-owned-businesses.html.
- “Meet the Black Woman Educator Who Transforms Herself into a Superhero in the Classroom.” 2020. BlackNews.com. May 14, 2020. https://www.blacknews.com/news/kandra-albury-black-woman-educator-transforms-superhero-in-classroom-cape-curriculum/.
- Deleon, Nina. 2020. “Detroit Chefs Make 20,000 Meals for Homeless Families Affected by COVID-19 Pandemic.” BlackNews.com. May 4, 2020. https://www.blacknews.com/news/detroit-black-chefs-make-20000-meals-homeless-families-affected-by-covid-19-pandemic/.
- Springman, Marilynn. 2020. “City of Cleveland to Pay $18 Million to Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu for Decades of Wrongful Imprisonment.” GOOD BLACK NEWS. May 26, 2020. https://goodblacknews.org/2020/05/26/city-of-cleveland-to-pay-18-million-to-rickey-jackson-wiley-bridgeman-and-kwame-ajamu-for-decades-of-wrongful-imprisonment/.
- Ingram, Regina. 2020. “Chelsea Phaire, 10, Donates Over 1,500 Art Kits to Kids in Foster Care and Homeless Shelters During COVID-19 Crisis.” GOOD BLACK NEWS. May 21, 2020. https://goodblacknews.org/2020/05/21/chelsea-phaire-10-donates-over-1500-art-kits-to-kids-in-foster-care-and-homeless-shelters-during-covid-19-crisis/.
The Injustice System
- Barajas, Angela, Erica Henry, and Steve Almasy. 2020. “Man Who Recorded the Fatal Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery Has Been Arrested, GBI Says.” CNN. Cable News Network. May 22, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/21/us/roddie-bryan-arrested-ahmaud-arbery-case/index.html.
- Morgan, Sarah Blake. 2020. “In His Final Days, Ahmaud Arbery’s Life Was at a Crossroads.” LA Times. Los Angeles Times. May 26, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-05-26/ahmaud-arbery-life-at-crossroads-in-final-days.
- “Ahmaud Arbery Murder Investigation.” n.d. Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Accessed May 28, 2020. https://gbi.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-05-21/ahmaud-arbery-murder-investigation.
- Burke, Minyvonne. 2020. “Breonna Taylor Police Shooting: What We Know about the Kentucky Woman’s Death.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group. May 15, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/breonna-taylor-police-shooting-what-we-know-about-kentucky-woman-n1207841.
- Andrew, Scottie. 2020. “The FBI Has Opened an Investigation into the Shooting Death of Kentucky EMT Breonna Taylor.” CNN. Cable News Network. May 21, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/21/us/breonna-taylor-death-police-changes-trnd/index.html.
- Costello, Darcy, and Tessa Duvall. 2020. “’Get Your Damn Story Straight’: What We Know about Louisville Woman Breonna Taylor’s Death.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network. May 14, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/14/breonna-taylor-what-know-louisville-emt-killed-police/5189743002/.
- Griffith, Janelle, and Doha Madani. 2020. “Man Blocks Black Delivery Driver in Oklahoma Neighborhood.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group. May 21, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/oklahoma-delivery-man-blocked-homeowner-group-president-thinks-it-was-n1207221.
- Bella, Timothy, Katie Mettler, Dalton Bennett, and Brittany Shammas. 2020. “’I Cannot Breathe!’: FBI Investigates Death of a Black Man in Minneapolis after Video Shows Police Officer Kneeling on His Neck.” The Washington Post. WP Company. May 26, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/26/minneapolis-police-death-custody-fbi/.
- Bates, Josiah. 2020. “NYPD COVID-19 Data Shows Racial Discrepancies in Enforcement.” Time. Time USA, LLC. May 8, 2020. https://time.com/5834414/nypd-social-distancing-arrest-data/.
- Carrega, Christina, and Aaron Katersky. 2020. ABC News. ABC News Network. May 8, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/US/nypd-arrested-people-color-social-distancing-charges-data/story?id=70573776.
Sudanese Government Bans Female Genital Mutilation
- “Sudan Criminalises Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).” 2020. BBC News. BBC. May 1, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52502489.
- Elbagir, Nima. 2020. “Sudanese Government Bans Female Genital Mutilation.” CNN. Cable News Network. May 1, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/africa/sudan-fgm-banned-intl/index.html.
- Holt, Kate. 2020. “Sudan Bans Female Genital Mutilation, UNICEF Vows to Help Support New Law | | UN News.” UN News. United Nations. May 2, 2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063122.
Joe Biden’s Ignorance
Strictly my opinion of his nonsense.
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