Dec 28, 2011

(AJC) New Birth Christian Academy is closing after 18 years, sending hundreds of students scrambling to find a new school by next week.

The academy, founded by Bishop Eddie Long, informed parents in a letter dated Dec. 22 that the private school's "funding estimates fall far short of our projected needs. It is a very sad occasion, as the NBCA board has made the tough decision to temporarily close the school."

The pre-K-12 school has an enrollment of 221, according to the Georgia Independent School Association, and employs 20 teachers. Just a few years ago, the Lithonia academy boasted of having one teacher for every eight students.

Calls to the GISA office Wednesday were not returned.

"We have operated New Birth Christian Academy for several years with substantial deficits in hopes that the national economic climate would change, however, that change never materialized," said to the letter signed by Carlton Donald, the board's vice chair.

The news caps a tumultuous year for Long. In May, he settled a sexual coercion suit filed against him by four former New Birth members. Earlier this month, his wife of 21 years, Vanessa, filed for divorce, leading the bishop to take some time off from his pastoral duties to tend to "family business," he said. Long remains New Birth's senior pastor.

"We are doing everything in our power to reopen the school at some point in the near future," Donald wrote. Several teachers currently or formerly affiliated with the academy either declined to comment or did not respond to requests.

Tuition at the school ranged from $5,253 for New Birth members to $6,198 for non-members with more than $1,000 in non-refundable fees, according to the academy's website.

Donald said staff will help students find a new school to attend. Students in grades K-5 may not have to travel far, however, as the DeKalb County School System leases space from New Birth for a charter school, Leadership Preparatory Academy.

The district pays more than $10,000 per month in rent to New Birth covering maintenance, security and insurance costs, according to a lease.

"The DeKalb County School System will coordinate with any students looking to transition from private schools or other schools, as we would with any students transitioning with the start of the new semester," district spokesman Walter Woods said.

Classes resume Jan. 4, two days after the DeKalb schools central office re-opens.

Dec 27, 2011

Christmas has come and gone, but there is something that is ostensibly missing (well at least for me). Where are all the children on their new Christmas bicycles?

It was Christmas Day, and my family as always was up early because all my nephews and niece were over at my mother's house to unwrap their gifts. It is our great holiday tradition that we try and do everything together at my mother's house because she lives on a cul-de-sac and it make it easier for the kids to play outside.

As always on Christmas Day, I like to sit outside and watch the kids play with their new toys and some how live simultaneously through them because I remember when I use to be that joyful to receive a new gift. I just couldn't wait to get outside and play with my new toys.

One of my favorite parts of people watching on Christmas Day is watching all the kids on their new bicycles. I don't know about you, but there is something about Christmas and a new bike. I'm not sure about the tradition up north, but it is really a big deal down south to get a new bicycle on Christmas. The two just goes hand and hand. It's like a rite of passage or something.

Well, this Christmas there was something different. When the kids went outside to play there was something very different that greeted them. Where were all the other children? We're talking about a neighborhood that is filled with kids, but yet there were no children outside playing.

Maybe everyone had went out of town this year, I thought, but instantly erased that illogical thought from my mind when I saw the mountains of Christmas debris that was piling up in front of everyone's yard as people began to clear through the rubble of Christmas and bring their collective trash bins to the front of their houses.

So where in the world were the children?

Maybe it's just me, but I remember a time when we could barely drive down the road in our neighborhood because there were so many children on bicycles and you didn't know what direction they would be coming from. And trust me, that was not that long ago.

So as I walked beside one of my nephews as he rode his bicycle, I started to glance at some of the trash that people had put out. What I noticed is perhaps the reason why I no longer see children outside on bicycles. There was every type of video game console and computer you could imagine lining up my mother's street.

Children don't have a reason to come outside anymore. All their entertainment is home based now. They don't view bicycles, like I did, as tools to explore the world (or neighborhood) around them. I guess that is something that is so passe, or maybe I'm just getting old (Shudder!).

But as I look at a world where childhood obesity and diabetes are rising, I wonder why we don't listen to the what the First Lady is saying and 'Let's Move'! And no, doing Michael Jackson dance moves on your Kinect does not count...LOL!

If you want your children to play outside then you need to get them gifts that can only be used outside. Maybe it's just me.

But where in the hell are all the Christmas bicycles? Please tell me it was just my neighborhood and not yours.

Dec 23, 2011

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has apologized to first lady Michelle Obama for reportedly saying she has a "big butt."

Sensenbrenner's press secretary says the Republican sent the first lady a personal note and released a statement Thursday saying he regrets his "inappropriate comment."

Sensenbrenner's office would not release the note.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Sensenbrenner referred to Michelle Obama's "big butt" while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in Hartford earlier this month.

Church member Ann Marsh-Meigs told the newspaper that she heard Sensenbrenner's remarks. She said the 16-term congressman was speaking about the first lady's efforts to combat childhood obesity, and added, "And look at her big butt."

Michelle Obama's press office didn't immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Dec 22, 2011

Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million to resolve allegations that its Countrywide unit engaged in a widespread pattern of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers on home loans.

The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department was filed Tuesday with the Central District court of California and is subject to court approval. The DOJ says it's the largest settlement in history over residential fair lending practices.

According to the DOJ's complaint, Countrywide charged over 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers with a similar credit profile. The complaint says that these borrowers were charged higher fees and rates because of their race or national origin rather than any other objective criteria.

"These institutions should make judgments based on applicants' creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "With today's settlement, the federal government will ensure that the more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against by Countrywide will be entitled to compensation."

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. bought the nation's largest subprime lender, Countrywide Financial Corp., in 2008.

Dan Frahm, a Bank of America spokesman, said in a statement that the bank does not practice lending based on race.

"We discontinued Countrywide products and practices that were not in keeping with our commitment and will continue to resolve and put behind us the remaining Countrywide issues," Frahm said.

The United States' complaint says that Countrywide was aware that the fees and interest rates that its loan officers were charging discriminated against African-American and Hispanic borrowers, but failed to impose meaningful limits or guidelines to stop it.

By steering borrowers into subprime loans from 2004 to 2007, the complaint alleges, Countrywide harmed those qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Subprime loans generally carried costlier terms, such as prepayment penalties and significantly higher adjustable interest rates that increased suddenly after two or three years, making the payments unaffordable and leaving the borrowers at a much higher risk of foreclosure.

"Countrywide's actions contributed to the housing crisis, hurt entire communities, and denied families access to the American dream," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The settlement amount will be used to compensate victims of Countrywide's discriminatory mortgage loans from 2004 through 2007, when Countrywide originated millions of residential mortgage loans as the nation's largest single-family mortgage lenders.

PHOENIX (AP) — Police now believe a five-year-old Arizona girl missing for more than two months was killed and that her body was dumped in a trash bin across town before her mother reported her missing — the most substantive information detectives have released about what they think happened to the girl.

Police in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale stopped short of saying who they think killed Jhessye Shockley, but Glendale police Sgt. Brent Coombs reiterated Wednesday that the girl's mother is the "No. 1 focus."

"We're in what we believed to be the worst-case scenario from the beginning," Coombs said.

A month ago, detectives arrested Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter, on a child abuse charge related to the girl, announcing at the time that they didn't believe they'd find the girl alive.

Hunter was released from jail days later, and the charge against her was dropped. Prosecutors said at the time that they wanted further investigation and were worried that Hunter would not be eligible for a potential murder charge if she was convicted of abusing Shockley, a situation known as double jeopardy.

A call to Hunter's home was not immediately returned Wednesday, but she has previously maintained her innocence.

Coombs said tips that came in following Hunter's arrest and evidence collected during search warrants led police to believe Jhessye's body was dumped in Tempe. He declined to elaborate.

Coombs did say detectives firmly believe Jhessye's body is now in a landfill south of the Phoenix area, and that detectives are deciding whether to search for it.

"There's such a scientific method behind trying to pinpoint a location within a particular cell within that landfill. It's a very difficult thing to do," he said, also noting that decomposition is an issue. "The reason we're taking such a long time is we want to be as confident as we can be prior to starting any operation that we're going to do the very best job we can."

Hunter reported Jhessye missing Oct. 11, telling police that she left Jhessye with the girl's older siblings while she ran an errand and returned to find her gone.

But a court document released last month says Hunter's teenage daughter later told police that she hadn't seen Jhessye since September. She told them that a few days before Hunter reported the girl missing, she saw Hunter cleaning her shoes and a closet where she kept Jhessye.

Police said they found a receipt that showed Hunter bought food and a bottle of bleach Oct. 9.

The teen also told police that Hunter deprived Jhessye of food and water while keeping her in the closet, and that she saw the girl with black eyes, bruises and cuts to her face and body.

"(She) reported that Jhessye's hair had been pulled out and described Jhessye as not looking alive and that she looked like a zombie," the document said. "(She) said that the closet where Jhessye had been looked like a grave and smelled like dead people."

The teen also said Hunter became angry with Jhessye sometime in September when she returned home to find the girl wearing a long T-shirt while watching TV with a neighbor boy. Hunter told Jhessye she was a "ho" before taking her into a bedroom, according to the document. The teen said she then heard her sister screaming and crying in the room.

Police say Hunter has declined to submit to a lie-detector test.

Hunter has said she had nothing to do with her daughter's disappearance, and has been critical of investigators.

"We feel that law enforcement is not active in finding Jhessye and that they're more active in persecuting me instead of finding out where she is," Hunter said in October.

Child welfare workers removed Hunter's other children, including a newborn, from her apartment the day after she reported Jhessye missing.

Hunter came under scrutiny during the investigation for an October 2005 arrest with her then-husband, George Shockley, on child abuse charges in California. Hunter pleaded no contest to corporal punishment and served about four years in prison before she was released on parole in May 2010.

Hunter's oldest child, 14 at the time, has told police his mother routinely beat the children. George Shockley is a convicted sex offender and is still in a California prison.

Hunter's mother, Shirley Johnson, has said her daughter changed after prison and became a loving mother.

Dec 21, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — New autopsy details show a Florida A&M student and band member whose death last month uncovered a hazing culture at the school had extensive bleeding in his back and right shoulder.

The full autopsy released Wednesday shows Robert Champion suffered heavy bleeding in tissue under his skin and over his muscle in his back, upper chest and upper arm. He also had bruising on his chest, abrasions below his waist, vomit in his lungs, crushed fat tissue and a temperature of 102 degrees at the time attempts were made to revive him.

The medical examiner's office released a synopsis of the autopsy report last week in which it concluded that the 26-year-old Champion's death was a homicide. The autopsy found that internal bleeding caused from blunt force trauma led to shock.

State and local authorities are investigating the death.

It's one of those issues that plague the community that we all know about but rarely do we dicuss in front of mixed company. The issue of colorism is something that is very far reaching and has impacted not only people of African descent but also other people of color such as Indians as well Koreans. Colonialism really did a job on us and we are still feeling the affects.

Recently, Pamela Bennett, an assistant professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that basically showed how far we still need to go when it comes to this issue of safe hatred.

This was the biggest finding from Bennett's study:

The American social hierarchy places people of mixed-race ancestry below whites but above blacks, while additional social stratifications along color lines are simultaneously taking place within the nation’s multiracial groups, according to a Johns Hopkins University sociologist’s study of U.S. Census data.

I'm not sure we needed a study to tell us what we already knew, but it's amazing that something like this still plagues our community. It's sad that black beauty is still defined by eurocentric terms, and we are still not able to totally appreciate the diverse beauty of our community.

How do we begin to move away from this? What is it going to take to finally heal our community of this notion that 'White is Right?'

Colorism is a divide and conquer mechanism that makes dark skin blacks feel marginalized and make light skin blacks feel isolated from their community. Either way, none of us win.

Dec 20, 2011

PLEASANT HILL, Calif. — A substitute secretary "apparently" mistook a racist cartoon for a harmless comic and sent it to parents and others as part of a Northern California middle school's newsletter.

School officials say the cartoon was in fact evidence in a 3-year-old hate crime investigation stemming from racist graffiti on a campus mural.

Principal Connie Cirimeli wrote in a letter to the community Sunday that the busy secretary added the digital image to the newsletter without closely examining it.

The substitute school secretary assembling the newsletter on the regular secretary's computer embedded the image, apparently mistaking it for an innocuous cartoon. The newsletter was conveniently sent out without the knowledge of any staff members.

"We will be making procedural and security changes to prevent such travesties from happening again," Principal Connie Cirimeli wrote in a letter to the school community Sunday.

The image that was sent turned out to be a photograph taken by school officials in 2008 after someone defaced a campus mural with racist graffiti. The school reported that incident to the police, and the photo was among the evidence collected for the police investigation.

Dec 19, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M University's president will keep his job while authorities investigate the hazing death of a band member.

The university's board of trustees on Monday rejected a call by Gov. Rick Scott that James Ammons be suspended.

The decision comes three days after the state medical examiner ruled that 26-year-old Robert Champion's Nov. 19 death was a homicide. Officials say he was beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour.

Ammons and other university leaders have been criticized for not doing enough to stop a culture of hazing within the university's famed "Marching 100" band. Band director Julian White has been placed on temporary leave and the board had already publicly reprimanded Ammons.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic longtime leader, has died. He was 69.

Kim's death was announced Monday by the state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but he had appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media. The communist country's "Dear Leader" -- reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine -- was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.

The news came as North Korea prepared for a hereditary succession. Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the communist nation founded by his guerrilla fighter-turned-politician father and built according to the principle of "juche," or self-reliance.

Even with a successor, there had been some fear among North Korean observers of a behind-the-scenes power struggle or nuclear instability upon the elder Kim's death.

Few firm facts are available when it comes to North Korea, one of the most isolated countries in the world, and not much is clear about the man known as the "Dear Leader."

North Korean legend has it that Kim was born on Mount Paekdu, one of Korea's most cherished sites, in 1942, a birth heralded in the heavens by a pair of rainbows and a brilliant new star.

Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in Siberia, in 1941.

Kim Il Sung, who for years fought for independence from Korea's colonial ruler, Japan, from a base in Russia, emerged as a communist leader after returning to Korea in 1945 after Japan was defeated in World War II.

With the peninsula divided between the Soviet-administered north and the U.S.-administered south, Kim rose to power as North Korea's first leader in 1948 while Syngman Rhee became South Korea's first president.

The North invaded the South in 1950, sparking a war that would last three years, kill millions of civilians and leave the peninsula divided by a Demilitarized Zone that today remains one of the world's most heavily fortified.

In the North, Kim Il Sung meshed Stalinist ideology with a cult of personality that encompassed him and his son. Their portraits hang in every building in North Korea and on the lapels of every dutiful North Korean.

Kim Jong Il, a graduate of Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung University, was 33 when his father anointed him his eventual successor.

Even before he took over as leader, there were signs the younger Kim would maintain -- and perhaps exceed -- his father's hard-line stance.

South Korea has accused Kim of masterminding a 1983 bombing that killed 17 South Korean officials visiting Burma, now known as Myanmar. In 1987, the bombing of a Korean Air Flight killed all 115 people on board; a North Korean agent who confessed to planting the device said Kim ordered the downing of the plane himself.

Kim Jong Il took over after his father died in 1994, eventually taking the posts of chairman of the National Defense Commission, commander of the Korean People's Army and head of the ruling Worker's Party while his father remained as North Korea's "eternal president."

He faithfully carried out his father's policy of "military first," devoting much of the country's scarce resources to its troops -- even as his people suffered from a prolonged famine -- and built the world's fifth-largest military.

Kim also sought to build up the country's nuclear arms arsenal, which culminated in North Korea's first nuclear test explosion, an underground blast conducted in October 2006. Another test came in 2009.

Alarmed, regional leaders negotiated a disarmament-for-aid pact that the North signed in 2007 and began implementing later that year.

However, the process continues to be stalled, even as diplomats work to restart negotiations.

North Korea, long hampered by sanctions and unable to feed its own people, is desperate for aid. Flooding in the 1990s that destroyed the largely mountainous country's arable land left millions hungry.

Following the famine, the number of North Koreans fleeing the country through China rose dramatically, with many telling tales of hunger, political persecution and rights abuses that officials in Pyongyang emphatically denied.

Kim often blamed the U.S. for his country's troubles and his regime routinely derides Washington-allied South Korea as a "puppet" of the Western superpower.

U.S. President George W. Bush, taking office in 2002, denounced North Korea as a member of an "axis of evil" that also included Iran and Iraq. He later described Kim as a "tyrant" who starved his people so he could build nuclear weapons.

"Look, Kim Jong Il is a dangerous person. He's a man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And ... there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon," Bush said in 2005.

Kim was an enigmatic leader. But defectors from North Korea describe him as an eloquent and tireless orator, primarily to the military units that form the base of his support.

The world's best glimpse of the man was in 2000, when the liberal South Korean government's conciliatory "sunshine" policy toward the North culminated in the first-ever summit between the two Koreas and followed with unprecedented inter-Korean cooperation.

A second summit was held in 2007 with South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun.

But the thaw in relations drew to a halt in early 2008 when conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul pledging to come down hard on communist North Korea.

Disputing accounts that Kim was "peculiar," former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright characterized Kim as intelligent and well-informed, saying the two had wide-ranging discussions during her visits to Pyongyang when Bill Clinton was U.S. president.

"I found him very much on top of his brief," she said.

Kim cut a distinctive, if oft ridiculed, figure. Short and pudgy at 5-foot-3, he wore platform shoes and sported a permed bouffant. His trademark attire of jumpsuits and sunglasses was mocked in such films as "Team America: World Police," a movie populated by puppets that was released in 2004.

Kim was said to have cultivated wide interests, including professional basketball, cars and foreign films. He reportedly produced several North Korean films as well, mostly historical epics with an ideological tinge.

A South Korean film director claimed Kim even kidnapped him and his movie star wife in the late 1970s, spiriting them back to North Korea to make movies for him for a decade before they managed to escape from their North Korean agents during a trip to Austria.

Kim rarely traveled abroad and then only by train because of an alleged fear of flying, once heading all the way by luxury rail car to Moscow, indulging in his taste for fine food along the way.

One account of Kim's lavish lifestyle came from Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian presidential envoy who wrote the book "The Orient Express" about Kim's train trip through Russia in July and August 2001.

Pulikovsky, who accompanied the North Korean leader, said Kim's 16-car private train was stocked with crates of French wine. Live lobsters were delivered in advance to stations.

A Japanese cook later claimed he was Kim's personal sushi chef for a decade, writing that Kim had a wine cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles, and that, in addition to sushi, Kim ate shark's fin soup -- a rare delicacy -- weekly.

"His banquets often started at midnight and lasted until morning. The longest lasted for four days," the chef, who goes by the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, was quoted as saying.

Kim is believed to have curbed his indulgent ways in recent years and looked slimmer in more recent video footage aired by North Korea's state-run broadcaster.

Kim's marital status wasn't clear but he is believed to have married once and had at least three other companions. He had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney's Tokyo resort.

His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chul and Kim Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago.

Dec 18, 2011

Just label me skeptical because I find it really hard to believe that someone would not see how inappropriate it is to play 'Dixie' at a site were three black men were lynched.  The president of Missouri State University can give all the excuses he want but I'm not buying them.  At some point we just have to say enough.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri State University is apologizing after its band performed "Dixie" at a site where three black men were lynched in 1906. 

 The Confederate anthem has come to represent the ideology of the Old South.The school's Pride Band played "Dixie" at the Nov. 18 dedication of Park Central Square in Springfield, the southwest Missouri city where the university is located. A plaque identifies the square as the location where three black men were lynched more than a century ago.

Smart says the band director didn't understand the significance of the song.The local NAACP president says "Dixie" was an inappropriate choice and sparked community complaints.

Dec 17, 2011

Reuters) - Grammy-winning R&B singer Etta James is terminally ill, her live-in physician said in an interview this week that confirmed reports of the singer's fading health.

Dr. Elaine James, who is no relation to the singer, told a California newspaper in a video interview that the 73-year-old "At Last" singer has leukemia, dementia and kidney disease among her "many, many illnesses."

"At the present time, Etta is considered terminally ill," the doctor told the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles. Dr. James added that the diagnosis was made about two weeks ago by three medical specialists including an oncologist and an internist from a local hospital where the singer is frequently treated.

James' two sons, Donto and Sametto, told Reuters on Friday that they were not sure the terminally ill diagnosis was accurate and it was announced without the family's agreement.

The singer's sons are currently involved in a court battle with their stepfather Artis Mills over conservatorship of James' $1 million estate.

Both sons agree that their mother's health is deteriorating and felt that she should be admitted to hospital rather than receiving care at her home in Riverside.

"I saw her the day before yesterday, and I think she needs to be in the hospital. She doesn't look good," said Donto James.

With songs like "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy," James, a three-time Grammy winner, was a key figure in the early days of rock 'n' roll and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

The singer has battled obesity and heroin addiction throughout her life. She lost more than 200 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2003.

More recently, she was hospitalized in 2010 with numerous ailments including a bloodstream infection. She become ill while being treated for an addiction to painkillers and over-the-counter medicine in a detoxification center.

James has remained active in the music industry despite her ailments, and she released an album in November this year entitled "The Dreamer."

"I don't think it was meant to be her final album, of course she wants to make more music," said Sametto James.

The wife of Los Angeles Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant, is filing for divorce after 10 and a half years of marriage and two daughters, ages 8 and 5. Citing the commonly used "irreconcilable differences" as justification for the divorce.

The couples marriage famously became the center of attention when a desk clerk in Vail, Colorado accused the NBA superstar of rape. During that tumultuous time, Vanessa stood by her husband even while a lot people criticize her for doing so. Her husband awarded her loyalty by gifting her with a $4 million purple diamond ring.

So what was it that made Vanessa decide to throw in the towel? Was it the fact that she had served her time and made it past the 10 year mark threshold? I mean you do realize that in the state of California that if you managed to stay married for 10 years or more you have the right to be paid alimony for as long as you need it (if you are the party that has the smaller income), and as long as the paying spouse can pay. I know that's crazy, but that's the law. And trust me, many people take advantage of that law. That may not be the case in this instance, but hey it is what it is.

Like I said earlier in this post, a lot of people criticized and ridicule Vanessa for standing by her husband, but it looks like she may have had a plan all along. I mean I certainly could be wrong, but I wouldn't be surprise if it turns out she's been in talks with Shaunie O'Neal and got some tips. Who knows, she may even join the cast of 'Basketball Wives: LA'. Wouldn't that be make for interesting TV to have the exes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal join forces.

Dec 16, 2011

The death of FAMU drum major, Robert Champion, was ruled a homicide by the District 9 Medical Examiners Office of Florida. The 26 year old is suspected to have succumbed to injuries incurred through hazing related activities.

Here is how the Medical Examiner's report read:

RE: Robert Champion, deceased
(ME 2011-001392)

DATE OF DEATH: November 19, 2011


CAUSE OF DEATH: Hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage
due to blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident.

CONCLUSION: Mr. Robert Champion, a previously healthy 26-year-old member of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University marching band, collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body.

Immediately after the hazing incident, he complained of thirst and fatigue; minutes later, he noted loss of vision and soon after had a witnessed arrest. These symptoms are consistent with hypotension or shock. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation ensued with aspiration of stomach contents into his airway.

In the hospital, his hemoglobin and hematocrit were found to be extremely low (7.0 g/dL and 22%, respectively) with no external source of blood loss or intravascular hemolysis. During this time, his potassium was found to be at a normal level as was his creatinine kinase.

The autopsy revealed extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder, and back with extensive hemorrhage within the subcutaneous fat, between fascial planes and within deep muscles. There was also evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat. He had no injuries to internal organs from the blunt trauma or any bone fractures. He had no evidence of natural disease except for a slightly enlarged heart with a normal left ventricular wall. Subsequent testing revealed no hemoglobinopathies (normal hemoglobin electrophoresis ruled out sickle disease and trait) and negative toxicology for drugs and alcohol. Microscopic examination revealed minimal fatty emboli. He was known to have had a normal hemoglobin and hematocrit (13.6 g/dL and 40.9%, respectively) back in 2008.

Based on the short period of time following the blunt trauma, premorbid symptoms, his collapse and dramatic drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit (indicating a significant rapid blood loss), and the extensive hemorrhage within his soft tissues, including deep muscles, it is our opinion that the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old male, is the result of hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, incurred by blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident.

Examination performed by Sara Irrgang, M.D., Associate Medical Examiner, with Jan Garavaglia, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner, in attendance.

Chicago wide receiver, Sam Hurd, was arrested and charged with felony counts of trying to distribute cocaine. I guess an NFL salary is not enough to supplement his lifestyle because he is being accused of being one of the biggest drug dealers in Chicago.

Here is how ABC News is reporting the story:

Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd is being held today on federal drug charges after allegedly attempting to purchase over a pound of cocaine from an undercover agent, and is alleged to be one of the top drug dealers in the Chicago area.

Police are also reportedly in possession of a list of NFL players who were allegedly supplied with illegal drugs by Hurd. If released on bond today he will be sent to Texas, where the criminal complaint was filed, according to The Associated Press.

By Kevin Dolak
Dec 16, 2011 2:19am
Sam Hurd Arrested: Chicago Bears Wide Receiver Jailed After Undercover Sting
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Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd is being held today on federal drug charges after allegedly attempting to purchase over a pound of cocaine from an undercover agent, and is alleged to be one of the top drug dealers in the Chicago area.

Police are also reportedly in possession of a list of NFL players who were allegedly supplied with illegal drugs by Hurd. If released on bond today he will be sent to Texas, where the criminal complaint was filed, according to The Associated Press.

The list of players that Hurd allegedly supplied is “in the double-digits,” a source told Chicago’s 670 The Score.

“Sam intends to fight these charges, and we intend to defend him fully. We have complete confidence in him,” said prominent attorney David Kenner, who successfully defended rapper Snoop Dogg against a murder charge.

According to the criminal complaint, Hurd, 26, met with an undercover agent at Morton’s restaurant in Rosemont, Ill., and told the agent that he was interested in buying five to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana weekly to distribute across the Chicago area. As the agent and Hurd dined on $300 worth of filet mignon, the wide receiver allegedly said that he and another person were already distributing approximately four kilos of cocaine weekly in Chicago, but needed a new supplier that could meet their demand.

Hurd allegedly told the agent that while his partner handled most of their drug deals, he was responsible for the “higher-end deals.”

Kathy Colvin, spokesperson for U.S. Attorney in Dallas, told ABC News that she “cannot confirm or deny” allegations that Hurd sold drugs to other NFL players, but she points out that such charges are not in the criminal complaint.

According to the charges, Hurd left the meeting with the undercover officer after he agreed to pay $25,000 for each kilo of cocaine and $450 per pound of marijuana. He said that he could pay for a kilo of cocaine after “he gets out of practice.”

He then walked out of the restaurant with the package and was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Hurd, who spent five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and signed with the Bears on July 29, was first identified as a potential drug dealer this July when an informant tipped off authorities as the NFL lockout was coming to a close.

Bears Coach Lovie Smith said he was disappointed by the arrest, and calls it a “total surprise.” He said that Hurd is still a member of the team for now.

Hurd was signed to a three- year deal with the Bears for a reported $5.15 million, including a $1.35 million signing bonus and base pay this season of $685,000, The AP reported.

(CNN) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott met late Thursday with a group of several hundred Florida A&M students upset over his recommendation that trustees suspend the school's president in the wake of alleged hazing and "financial irregularities."

Chanting "We've got questions. You've got answers," the students marched to the governor's mansion, promising to stay until Scott changed his mind.

"We are not going to leave," said Breyon Love, the FAMU student body president. "Mr. Governor, with all due respect, we will be here all night, all day tomorrow until you apologize or rescind that recommendation."

Appearing in a gray sweatshirt, Scott addressed the crowd through a megaphone outside the mansion, thanking them for caring and coming out.

I want the best thing for FAMU. I want the best thing for the FAMU family. I want the best thing for the great state of Florida," the governor told students, although not conceding to their wishes.

Earlier, Scott had told the chairman of FAMU's board of trustees, Solomon L. Badger III, that he felt the board should take further action against university President James Ammons when it meets Monday, the statement said. The governor also "placed a call" to Ammons to notify him of these conversations.

"I think it's in his best interests (to) make sure that there is no question that this university is doing the right thing and cooperating," Scott said Thursday.

The discussions came after Scott returned Thursday from a trade mission to Israel and was briefed by staffers on recent developments out of the Tallahassee university, according to the governor's office.

Ammons responded Thursday that he was "sure that this investigation will determine that, under my leadership, the administration acted appropriately."

At the same time, he said he was prepared to accept his fate.

"I serve at the pleasure of the FAMU board of trustees, and I will abide by whatever decision the board reaches," he said.

Badger also released a statement in which he acknowledged "a communication with the governor." He said he hadn't talked with other trustees, promising that "we will make a decision about how we move forward Monday."

"This is a very difficult decision that we are facing," Badger said.

The band's director, Julian White, has been placed on administrative leave. One trustee, Rufus Montgomery, advocated a week ago that the university president should likewise be suspended -- but, instead, the board voted then to reprimand him.

"If you can place ... Julian White on administrative leave pending an investigation outcome, then we as a board can place James Ammons on administrative leave, procedure-wise," Montgomery said December 8.

The school president had pledged Wednesday to "root out this culture of hazing," though he declined to offer details about what specifically might change.

Band drum major Robert Champion Jr., 26, died after a November 19 football game following a suspected hazing incident.

He "reportedly threw up in the parking lot and started complaining of not being able to breathe," authorities said in a statement. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No cause of death has been released.

Some band members said he may have died after a rite of passage called "crossing Bus C." One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that members "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus back backward while the bus is full of other band members, and you get beaten until you get to the back."

About three weeks before Champion's death, freshman band member Bria Hunter suffered a cracked femur, deep bone bruising and blood clots after being beaten repeatedly on the thighs, according to arrest affidavits from Tallahassee police.

Three men -- Sean Hobson, 23, Aaron Golson, 19, and James Harris, 22 -- were charged with hazing, a crime under Florida law, this week in her case. Hobson and Golson additionally are charged with felony battery.

"We're sending all these kids off to school. ... We expect them to come back with an education and alive," Scott said Thursday.

The university's troubles go beyond the hazing reports.

Jerry Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Wednesday that authorities looking into Champion's death had found evidence of "financial irregularities having to do with the band and several other components of the university."

The suspected fraud is not directly related to Champion's death, Bailey said.

"It became apparent (from) some of the people that we interviewed (that) the financial irregularities had to do with the band travels and other sports and administrative components of the university," he said.

The state commissioner said it is premature to conclude that the irregularities are "systemic," adding that it is too soon to tell how much money may be involved. But, he added, "it's not just isolated" to the band program.

In a statement Wednesday, Badger -- chairman of FAMU's trustees -- said the university could not comment, "but we are cooperating fully with this and all investigations."

The governor said Thursday that he isn't advocating that Ammons resign but rather "step aside" until the investigation is complete. Ideally, this inquiry will show that whatever problems are "isolated," he added.

"My goal is to have a thorough investigation that everybody feels very comfortable that everybody cooperated with," Scott said. "Hopefully, there was nothing more (Ammons) could do."

Champions' parents did not reference Ammons specifically during an interview, which was conducted with HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky before Scott made his recommendation. Yet the young man's father did state that it was important that there's accountability -- for both Champion's death and hazing in general.

"I think the school should be held accountable, I think that each organization should be held accountable," Robert Champion Sr. said Thursday. "We have to get down to the root of the problem, so that everyone can be responsible."

His wife, Pam Champion, said their family will champion anti-hazing education efforts and look into setting up a hotline through which people can anonymously call in reports of hazing.

She said that everyone at FAMU -- from administrators, to students, to alumni -- and other schools need to work together to stop hazing, which she called endemic to a larger cultural issue.

"If you're not going to be part of the solution, then you are part of the problem," Pam Champion said. "The idea is to (get) rid of the whole culture, the whole mind-set of it."

Dec 15, 2011

Baratunde Thurston, one half of the founding duo of 'Jack and Jill' politics, wrote an open letter in respone to the essay that was posted by Gene Marks on entitled, 'If I was a Poor Black Kid', about what he would do if he was a 'Poor Black Kid'. Baratunde wrote the letter from a point of view of a poor black kid and he actually received a response from Marks.

Here's what he wrote:

Dear Mr. Gene Marks,

I am a poor black kid. I don't have great parental or educational resources. I'm not as smart as your kids. These are facts. In 2011.

The one smart thing I do everyday is read Forbes. It's what all us poor black kids do. Forbes is constantly reporting on issues of relevance to me and my community. This week, I found your article "If I Were A Poor Black Kid" printed out and slid under my door like all Forbes articles.

Thank you Mr. Marks. You have changed everything about my life. Thanks to your article, I worked to make sure I got the best grades, made reading my number one priority and created better paths for myself. If only someone had suggested this earlier.

But that was just the beginning of how your exceptionally relevant, grounded and experience-based advice changed my life. Thanks only to your article, I discovered technology.

Why did my teachers not teach this? Why isn't this technology mentioned anywhere in popular culture? I don't understand, but you do.

You listed so many different websites and resources, at first it was overwhelming. But I didn't let that deter me. I thought to myself, "If a successful, caring, complicated, intelligent man like Gene Marks says to do it, then I'd better head over to right now!"

I did not stop there. I became an expert at the CIA World Factbook, started using Evernote and made it my goal to get into one of those private schools you wrote about. Before your article, I never wanted anything more for myself. I used Google (thanks for the tip!), found the names and addresses of the school admissions officers, and showed up outside of their homes. It's like they were waiting for me. They smiled, waved and immediately told me about their secret scholarship programs.

Private school was exactly like you said it would be. I went straight to the guidance counselor, and I said, "You know everything there is to know about financial aid, grants, minority programs and the like."

And she said, "I sure do! And even though I don't know your name, I'm going to help you get summer employment at a law firm or a business owned by the 1% where you could meet people and show off your stuff." I love showing off my stuff, sir. You have no idea.

I took more of your advice. I got "technical." I had no idea I could get technical. I learned software!

From there it was just a quick hop to a top college, marketable skills and an immediate job offer from a businessman starved for talent. Did someone say recession? I can't see it!

The amazing part is that I did all of this in two days! All thanks to your article!

TIME: If I were a middle class white guy writing about being a poor black kid

I didn't know any of these opportunities existed. My parents and I were too tired. We were all ignorant, and quite frankly, I could have figured it out sooner on my own if I'd had the brains to do so. Your article provided those brains. It wasn't about my parents or ways to improve the school system or how to empower the community. It had nothing to do with history or accumulated privilege or social psychology. No, I simply needed to want success more and combine that with technology. You taught me that I can do all this by myself, and I have!

With that one article, you solved the problems of millions. Imagine the good you could do with three or four articles! Please don't stop with poor black kids! What about children trapped in sex trafficking? How about undocumented migrant workers? And of course, there's women. Have you ever wondered why there aren't more women CEOs? I'm sure you have. You've thought about everything and figured everything out. You are a great man. Thanks again for teaching me about technology.

Gene Marks then responded by writing the following:

Hi Baratunde,

Thanks for your piece – I thought it raised great points and continued the discussion. I wish you success with your new book too. And I read The Onion every day.

What do I know about being a "poor black kid?" Absolutely nothing. I'm a middle class white guy. But I went to school. So I know about that. And I'm in the business of technology. So I know about that.

How can any inner city kid even have the chance to overcome the inequality that our President spoke about and have a chance at some opportunity?

1. Study hard and get good grades.

2. Use technology to help you get good grades.

3. Apply to the best schools you can.

4. Get help from a school's guidance counselor.

5. Learn a good skill. This is what I said in my blog. I said this wasn't easy. It's brutally hard. And, unfortunately, it's not funny.

Will any of these kids read what I wrote in Forbes? Probably not. I'm hoping that educators, bloggers and most importantly parents do. Because it will be very tough for any kid to do it alone.


Gene Marks

Recently, the Obamas sat down for an official family portrait. All I can say is that this is one beautiful family.

On a side note...

You can't tell me that Malia, age 13, is not the splitting image of her father. She and Sasha, age 10, have grown tremendously.

Dec 14, 2011

Barely half of American adults are married, a record low for the country, a new analysis of Census data finds.

Following that same trend, the median age at first marriage is older than ever for both men and women, with the median age of marriage for women at 26.5 and the median age for men at 28.7.

Nonetheless, the majority of Americans will still experience marriage at some point in their lives. Although only 51 percent of American adults are currently married, 72 percent have been married at least once.

It's not clear from the analysis whether Americans are shunning marriage altogether or simply delaying it, although the proportion of never-married American adults has increased from 15 percent in 1960 to 28 percent today. Age at first marriage is on the rise in a number of nations across the globe, particularly in developed nations. According to the United Nations' 2009 World Fertility Report, the median age at first marriage for women in developed countries rose from 22.3 years old in the 1970s to 29.4 years old in the 2000s. The age of first marriage rose for men, as well.

Avoiding the alter

The new analysis of U.S. Census data, conducted by the Pew Research Center, also finds that the number of new marriages per year declined 5 percent between 2009 and 2010, a drop that might be related to the economy. Either way, the long-term trend in marriage is downward: In 1960, 72 percent of adults over the age of 18 were married, compared with 2010's 51 percent.

Since 1960, the median age of first marriage has risen by about six years for both men and women. In 1960, 59 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds were married, compared with 20 percent today. The proportion of divorced or separated people, on the other hand, has leveled off at around 14 percent of American adults over the last two decades.

Race, class and marriage

Marriage rates diverge notably by race and class, the analysis revealed, meshing with earlier research by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, which finds that working-class and poor individuals are increasingly retreating from institutions like marriage and church.

Among whites, 55 percent are married, compared with 28 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of blacks. Part of the difference has to do with the fact that the black and Hispanic population skews younger, and thus they are less likely to have gotten around to marriage yet, Pew researchers found.

A college education is also linked to the likelihood of marriage, with 64 percent of college grads having entered into matrimony. For those with some college education, that number is 48 percent, dropping to 47 percent among those with a high-school education or less. In 1960, these education disparities in marriage did not exist.

Public opinion
According to the Pew report, cohabitating, single-parent and other types of households have increased as marriage has become less common. A 2010 survey by the organization found that 39 percent of Americans say that marriage is becoming obsolete. In the 1970s, only 28 percent of Americans thought marriage was obsolete.

Public opinion about marriage mirrors marriage rates. About 44 percent of blacks say marriage is becoming obsolete, compared with 36 percent of whites. Of adults with college degrees, only 27 percent say marriage is fading in importance, compared with 45 percent of adults with a high-school education or less. Nonetheless, 47 percent of unmarried people who said marriage was obsolete also said they hoped to marry someday, virtually the same proportion of unmarried people who believe that marriage is important.

CINCINNATI (AP) — A landlord found to have discriminated against a black girl by posting a "White Only" sign at a swimming pool wants a state civil rights commission to reconsider its decision.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission found on Sept. 29 that Jamie Hein, who's white, violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign at a pool at the duplex where the teenage girl was visiting her parents. The parents filed a discrimination charge with the commission and moved out of the duplex in the racially diverse city to "avoid subjecting their family to further humiliating treatment," the commission said in a release announcing its finding.

An investigation revealed that Hein in May posted on the gated entrance to the pool an iron sign that stated "Public Swimming Pool, White Only," the commission statement said.

Several witnesses confirmed that the sign was posted, and the landlord indicated that she posted it because the girl used in her hair chemicals that would make the pool "cloudy," according to the commission.

Hein, of Cincinnati, hung up when The Associated Press called her for comment Tuesday. A message was left at her lawyer's office.

The commission's statement said that its investigation concluded that the posting of such a sign "restricts the social interaction between Caucasians and African-Americans and reinforces discriminatory actions aimed at oppressing people of color."

Commissioners were scheduled to hear Hein's request for reconsideration at a meeting Thursday in Columbus, commission spokeswoman Brandi Martin said.

If the commissioners uphold their original finding, the case would be referred to the Ohio attorney general's office, which would represent the commission's findings before an administrative law judge, Martin said.

Penalties in the case could include a cease-and-desist order and even punitive damages, but the administrative law judge would determine any penalties, Martin said.

It still would be possible for the parties to reach a settlement before resorting to legal action, she said.

Any decision by the administrative judge could be appealed to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in Cincinnati, Martin said.

For me, this story is very reminiscent of what Western culture has done when it came to maligning the Vodou (Voodoo) religion. Anything with African roots is always deemed bad and evil and the same thing is happening to the religions in Brazil.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rosa Cardoso has practiced the Afro-Brazilian religion of Umbanda almost all of her 89 years, yet she hasn’t stopped hiding her faith from the rest of the world.

The door to the temple she runs in a middle-class neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro sits behind a plain, dilapidated door and has no sign out front announcing its presence. Inside, worshippers pay homage to images of African-descended gods, the Orixas, but the figures are stored discreetly behind a wooden lattice beneath an altar adorned with a nearly life-sized image of Jesus flanked by St. Barbara and the Virgin Mary.

Although an estimated 400,000 Brazilians such as Cardoso follow the religion, they also continue to face prejudices that clash with the country’s public image of racial and religious harmony.

Intolerance and outright hostility against Umbanda, as well as Brazil’s other major African-descended religion Candomble, have recently returned to the spotlight as religious-freedom activists denounce the demolition of a house known as Umbanda’s birthplace.

At the same time, the owner of another Umbanda temple in the same city, Sao Goncalo, across the bay from Rio, is fighting an eminent domain order to turn his house into a sports center.

Cardoso said she’s learned not to let down her guard when it comes to protecting herself from religious scorn. This country of 190 million remains predominantly Roman Catholic, even as Pentecostal congregations have won over legions of converts.

Many in Rio can rattle off the names of a few Orixas, and thousands of believers and sympathizers flock to beaches on New Year’s dressed in white to leave offerings for the ocean goddess Iemanja.

Nonetheless, many Brazilians often view Umbanda and Candomble as barely benign versions of witchcraft, and believers are loath to acknowledge publicly they follow the faiths. In many parts of the country, practicing Umbanda was outlawed until the 1950s, and in the following three decades believers were supposed to register with the police.

“We used to have to hide in the woods to do our ceremonies,” Cardoso said one night, as an Umbanda ceremony full of drums, dancing and bodily possessions got under way. Even now, Cardoso doesn’t open her house to strangers without a thorough vetting.

Umbanda was founded a little more than a century ago, drawing from older traditions such as Catholicism, the beliefs of enslaved Yoruba people brought from West Africa, the spirituality of Brazil’s indigenous groups and the teachings of 19th century French spiritualist Allan Kardec.

The religion has many variations, but all share belief in a supreme being, Oxala, and in a pantheon of other African-origin deities, many of whom are identified with a Catholic saint and with natural forces or elements. They also believe these deities, along with other spirits, can enter the body of psychics to advise and interact with the living.

A city survey in 2011 found 847 Umbanda houses of worship in Rio, though like Cardoso’s they’re often not easy to spot.

On a recent night at Cardoso’s house, a young woman in a long white dress stepped into a six-pointed star painted in the center of the room, calm despite the fast-beating drums, the chanting and the thick incense smoke around her.

Suddenly, she crumpled to the floor. When she stood up again, she had the deeply bowed back of the very old. Her fingers and toes curled as with arthritis, and her face was drawn, mouth puckered, eyes squinting. Her voice cracked as she shuffled around the room, blessing each of the ceremony’s participants.

It was the beginning of the night of the “pretos velhos,” or the old black men. Soon, all the “sons” and “daughters” of the house were incorporating, according to their belief, the spirits of wise old black ancestors, and later offering one-on-one advice to the dozens of followers attending the ceremony.

Brazil’s post-dictatorship 1989 constitution enshrined the freedom to hold such ceremonies, but Umbanda’s followers say official disdain and intense prejudice still put their lives and shrines at risk.

According to police reports, followers of Afro-Brazilian religions report on average 100 cases of physical or verbal attacks a year because of their faith, in the state of Rio de Janeiro alone.

Another report, which was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by a Brazilian religious-freedom group, details 39 cases of discrimination around the country in 2009. Cases range from a bank’s refusal in Minas Gerais state to give an Afro-Brazilian religious association an account to the partial destruction of a Candomble temple in Bahia state. The two cases, from 2008, are still being investigated.

“Umbanda has suffered a lot of pressure from other religions, as well as from the state and from police,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. “It has these elements from Catholicism, but isn’t Catholic; from spiritualism, without following exactly Kardec’s beliefs. So no one recognizes it as their own.”

Cases of persecution against Umbanda and Candomble have increased along with the presence and the power of Pentecostal religions, Altemeyer said.

“There is always a discourse of ‘taking them from the hands of the devil,’ converting them,” Altemeyer said. “Evangelical actions on this front are very significant.”

Such tensions have come into relief in Sao Goncalo, where Mayor Aparecida Panniset, an outspoken Pentecostal, has been accused of failing to protect Umbanda sites, or even destroying them.

In October, she ignored pleas by religious tolerance activists to stop the demolition of the house where the first Umbanda rituals were held in 1908. She also turned down requests to meet the activists, they said.

Panniset then moved ahead with efforts to raze another traditional Umbanda house in the same city. Tractors have started to level the land and a fence was built around the property with signs announcing a sports center’s arrival, although Sao Goncalo has not been granted rights to build it and the case is pending in court.

The mayor didn’t respond to several calls and emails from The Associated Press requesting comment. Documents filed in court by the city do not mention a temple on the land, or the owners’ home. Instead it refers to unspecified buildings “in poor state of preservation” and “illegal occupations,” and says the area has little value as real estate. Owner Cristiano Ramos said no city officials ever inspected the property.

“Ever since slavery, we’ve been used to taking beatings and keeping quiet to survive,” Ramos said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to resist. We’ve been here all these centuries, and we’re going to continue.”

Ramos inherited the house from his father, also an Umbanda priest who in 1947 incorporated the spirit of an indigenous deity, the Indian with a Golden Feather, that gives the 40-year-old temple its name.

The Commission Against Religious Intolerance, a Rio-based nonprofit, is still fighting to build a museum of Umbanda on the site of the religion’s first house of worship. The Sao Goncalo city council announced Thursday it will seek to declare the property a protected historical site and will examine the plan to build a museum on the spot.

“Building the museum is one way to repair and minimize the damage done in October, when the house that was the birthplace of Umbanda was torn down,” said council member Amarildo Aguiar in a statement.

Ramos said he wants to see the museum built, but at the same time, he said Umbanda should remain a living faith. And he said that means protecting the houses where this most Brazilian of faiths lives on.

“I’m not ready to turn into an exhibit,” Ramos said. “My house is an active house. We’ve been here, living in our faith with our Orixas, and respecting others. We’re going to ask for that respect back.”

Dec 13, 2011

BET has announced its list of honorees for the 2012 BET Honors. Topping the list of honorees are Dr. Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, and Spike Lee.

Also to be honored are the Tuskegee Airmen and Beverly Kearney.

The star-studded ceremony will be hosted by actress Gabrielle Union and take place at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. on January 14th.

Angela Stanley over at the NY Times wrote an op-ed piece that completely summarizes how I feel when it comes to the issue of black women and marriage and how people are using this issue to attack us unfairly.

Here is a snippet of what she wrote:

It’s not simply an unhelpful observation. This culturally popular notion that 70 percent of black women don’t marry is just a myth. For the last few years, I have been hearing from every source imaginable that the vast majority of black women will never marry. This never made sense to me because so many black women I know are married. And indeed, eventually, most black women do marry.

A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued. According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women in the United States had never been married — but those were women between the ages of 25 and 29. Black women marry later, but they do marry. By age 55 and above, those numbers showed, only 13 percent of black women had never been married. In fact, people who have never married in their lifetimes are in the clear minority, regardless of race.

With all the attention on black women, I had assumed that black men must be marrying in droves; otherwise they would be the focus of similar scrutiny. Not the case. Census numbers show that 73.1 percent of black men between the ages of 25 and 29 have never been married. That is actually higher than the numbers associated with black women.

Without warrant, black women have been the main focus of the “marriage crisis.” Marriage as the norm in the United States has been on the decline for decades; married couples now make up less than half of American households.

So why all of the negative attention on black women?

It is part of a persistent historical and present-day attack on black people in America, with black men made into deviants and black women into problems.

Click here to read the entire article.

Dec 12, 2011

(CNN) -- Three members of Florida A&M University's marching band have been charged with hazing a fellow member of the famous Marching 100 who took her complaints to police.The freshman suffered a cracked femur, deep bone bruising and blood clots after being beaten repeatedly by two of her fellow students in November, according to arrest affidavits from Tallahassee police. The three suspects -- 23-year-old Sean Hobson, 19-year-old Aaron Golson and 22-year-old James Harris -- were booked Monday.Monday's arrests are separate from November's suspected hazing-related death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old drum major for the legendary marching band. The school's board of trustees voted last week to reprimand its president in the wake of Champion's death, and the band's director has been placed on administrative leave.

ORLANDO (AP) - Four students who were expelled from Florida A&M University for their role in what is believed to be the hazing death of a marching band member have returned to classes because the investigation is not finished, school officials said Wednesday.

The status of band director Julian White also changed. He had faced termination Dec. 22 but is now on administrative leave with pay, FAMU attorney David Self said during a break in meetings of the school's board of trustees in Orlando.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked the university to stop any disciplinary action until a criminal investigation into the death of Robert Champion is done. Detectives say hazing played a role in his Nov. 19 death. He died aboard a band bus following a football game against rival Bethune-Cookman University. Witnesses said he vomited before becoming unresponsive.

"According to the FDLE letter, all disciplinary action had to cease," said Henry Kirby, dean of students.

White's attorney called the change "a step in the right direction." He said White would seek full reinstatement as band director and as a fully-tenured music professor.

"We still intend to explore all the legal options in light of the university's collective bargaining agreement and Dr. White's contract," said Chuck Hobbs.

The famed Marching 100 band has been shuttered as the death is investigated by the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the FDLE and Florida's higher education governing body, the Board of Governor.

An attorney for that board told trustees that Champion's family had sent a letter indicating they plan to sue over his death. The letter requested the Tallahassee-based university's insurance information but it didn't make reference to any individuals or legal theories that they may follow, said attorney Rick Mitchell.

Mitchell said Florida law limited the board's liability to $300,000, although individuals could be liable for a larger amount if they were found to have acted in bad faith, with malicious purpose or exhibited wanton disregard for safety.

Board members didn't address the future of James Ammons, the university's president, but left open the possibility it would be a topic of discussion Thursday. Board chairman Solomon Badger said he supported Ammons, but other board members, when asked, refused to say whether he had their backing.

Ammons told reporters he wasn't thinking about his future.

"The university is much bigger than James Ammons," he said. "I'm not focusing on whether I have the support of the board. My focus right now is on this family who has lost a son and on this university, and how we're going to move forward and repair the image of the university."

The executives at OWN think they have come up with a way to help the fledgling network: focus on its African American audience.

With the success of reality show, 'Welcome to Sweetie Pies', the executives think they've found a bright light in a rater dismal ratings performance for the network.

Since Welcome to Sweetie Pies premiered, OWN has enjoyed an average prime-time viewership of around 216,000 people. Sweetie Pies has seen an average audience of around 418,000, making it the highest rated show on the network by far in that period.

The people at OWN obviously has history as an example to show them that this may be a successful plan. Fox and the CW started with similiar plans. During the early period of their conceptions, they both primarily catered to an African American audience until they became successful in their own right and felt they no longer needed said audience.

Yes, Oprah's brand is a very diverse brand, but right now it's African Americans that are keeping her afloat. So, is she wrong for capitalizing on that? I think not. The only question for me is how will that audience be treated once Ms. Winfrey's network becomes successful (which I'm sure it will be).

How do you feel about OWN changing to focus on an African American audience? Is this a classic Fox/CW move or is it a geniune attempt at giving black people some quality television?

On and FYI, I actually love Welcome to Sweetie Pies.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan started a five-day trip to Haiti on Sunday, arriving just ahead of fellow Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey as they make separate trips to the poor Caribbean country.

Farrakhan told reporters at the airport that he will be exploring ways his organization can help Haiti rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

He said he intends to "listen, learn and share," and is particularly interested in learning more about Voodoo, the religion widely practiced in the country.

"I have longed throughout my life to set my foot in the sacred soil of Haiti," Farrakhan said.

Haitian Foreign Minister Laurent Lamorthe greeted Farrakhan at the airport, and the Nation of Islam leader was expected to meet later in the week with President Michel Martelly.

Authorities hustled the journalists out of the airport after the news conference so they could not cover Winfrey's arrival.

Winfrey was expected to visit a settlement camp for displaced people run by Hollywood actor Sean Penn and his aid group J/P HRO on Monday. She was also expected to meet with fashion designer Donna Karan, who has celebrated the work of Haiti's artisans through her Urban Zen Foundation since the quake.

Martelly has said he would meet with Winfrey on Monday. He said he hopes she will serve as a goodwill ambassador for Haiti and help bring aid to the country.

Dec 11, 2011

Baylor's quarterback, Robert Griffin III, walked away with the coveted Heisman trophy hardware last night. Griffin is the first in Baylor school history to win the Heisman. This also marks the first time two black quarterbacks have won the coveted college prize back to back (Auburn's Cam Newton won last year).

It was Griffin that made Baylor, arguably a laughing joke when it came to college football, a contender. Griffin lead his team to their first ever nine game winning season by beating powerhouses such as Oklahoma and Texas.

A dynamic threat with his arm and his legs, Griffin accounted for 45 touchdowns this season. He rushed for 100 or more yards twice and threw for 400 yards or more in four games this season. His 192.31 pass efficiency rating leads the nation and is on pace to break the N.C.A.A. single-season record of 186.0 set by Colt Brennan of Hawaii in 2006.

But Griffin’s candidacy was more compelling than just his statistics.

Griffin was born in Japan, where his parents, both Army sergeants, were stationed. He is also a dean’s list student at Baylor, having graduated last December with a degree in political science. He said he planned to apply to law school when he was done playing football.


Dec 10, 2011

What in the world is going on?


Nine Dean College students have been expelled following a one-sided fight on Friday that was captured on videotape and posted online. Police said they expected to bring criminal charges in the case.

The fight began when a group of male students confronted another male student over a pair of sneakers, said Franklin Deputy Police Chief Stephen Semerjian.

“It began with a sucker punch so the victim really had no idea,” Semerjian said. “Once he was horizontal on the ground, it was brutal from that point on, absolutely.”

The video shows a young man being punched without warning and then repeatedly punched and being hit with his own shoes. His attacker then walks off with the shoes.

The victim was treated at the campus medical center and released Friday night.

“It was really one-sided,” Semerjian said. “The victim was lucky to be able to get back to his feet.”

One student was expelled Friday, and eight more were expelled after the video came to light Monday, said Gregg Chalk, spokesman for Dean College. Chalk said no other students are being investigated at this time.

“Dean has zero tolerance for anything that infringes on the safety of students,” Chalk said.

At least one person is expected to face criminal charges, Semerjian said. Charges would include assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unarmed robbery, he said.

“There absolutely will be [charges] once we finish everything up,” he said.

So the official trailer is here for the movie based upon Steve Harvey's national best-selling book, 'Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man'.

So will you go see it?

Dec 9, 2011

This is a brewing controversy that is starting to gain more media attention. On the campus of Georgetown, famed author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is teaching a sociology course based around the lyrics of Jay-Z.

There are a lot of people for the course, but there is a mounting number of people starting to criticize the class and it's place in an academic setting.

So the question is, Does the lyrics of Jay-Z belong in an academic setting?

Is Dr. Michael Eric Dyson truly trying to educate young people on the plight of the 'Black Man' through the lenses of Jay-Z or is he just trying to exploit one of his celebrity friendships for some more media attention? Does using Jay-Z as the archetype of black men present a monolithic view of the black man's path or does Jay-Z serve as one of the best examples of a black man turning his life around for the better?

If Jay-Z is a good subject for a college, then what other rappers would you like to see courses taught on? And on the subject of rappers at the top of their game, why do we always tend to forget the story of Will Smith? His is one of the most compelling stories. He went from rapper to dominating the movie industry. That is just unheard of.

Personally, outside of Biggie and Tupac, I would like to see someone dissect the lyrics of Outkast, Lauryn Hill, Common, Nas, and Eminem. Those rappers are a little more my flavor.

Besides, have Michael Jackson, James Brown or Marvin Gaye ever been given courses?

Side note:
No offense to any of the Jay-Z fans, but did he seriously just compare Jay-Z to Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes? Maybe something was wrong with my hearing.

Dec 8, 2011

Albany State University's fall commencement on Dec. 10 will be a special occasion for a group of 32 former students, who were expelled for their participation in non-violent protests against segregation during the Albany Civil Rights Movement in 1961.

At the commencement, the group will be awarded honorary baccalaureate degrees.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced that he, on behalf of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, is approving President Everette Freeman's request to award the honorary degrees.

Huckaby said, "The University System recognizes the unique nature of the situation that occurred at Albany State 50 years ago and applauds President Freeman and the University for paying tribute to these former students."

Additionally, the Board has approved an honorary doctorate degree for Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, also one of the Albany State College students involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Reagon, a noted cultural historian, will serve as the commencement speaker.

ASU had originally petitioned the Board to award honorary baccalaureate degrees to 38 former students who were expelled from the university in 1961 for participating in protests during the early days of the Albany Civil Rights Movement. The honorary degrees were meant to coincide with ASU's celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Albany Movement.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Florida A&M University's Board of Trustees voted Thursday to publicly reprimand the school's president rather than place him on leave following the death of a band member in what detectives say was an incident related to hazing.

The 8-4 reprimand vote at a meeting in Orlando came in place of a motion to put FAMU President James Ammons on administrative leave until the criminal investigation into drum major Robert Champion's death is done. Detectives are probing the role of hazing in the Nov. 19 death.

When asked after the meeting if he thought he had "dodged a bullet," Ammons said, "I heard the bullet loudly and clearly."

Band director Julian White has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the death investigation, and board member Rufus Montgomery said Ammons should be treated in the same manner.

Montgomery also criticized the president for accreditation problems with some academic programs and for failing to keep the board informed.

"If the quarterback has thrown seven interceptions, you pull him from the game," Montgomery said at a board meeting in Orlando. "That is what we should do with Dr. Ammons."

Ammons became president of his Tallahasse-based alma mater in July 2007 and recently signed a new five-year contract.

Some board members expressed concern about creating a leadership vacuum by putting Ammons on leave at a time the school is facing unprecedented scrutiny over hazing. The Orange County Sheriff's Office is leading the criminal investigation into Champion's death but other probes have been started by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Board of Governors, the state's governing body for public higher education.

"I'm concerned about a knee-jerk reaction until we have the results of an investigation," board member Karl White said. "There has not been an opportunity to have a discussion of what would be put in place if we decided to put the president on administrative leave."

Seeming to anticipate the action against him, Ammons offered a defense of his tenure earlier in the meeting.

He said the university was cooperating with investigators and that changes will be made so that the board is notified of any future hazing allegations. He also said letters sent to his office warning of band hazing only reached him after Champion's death. The letters were notifications that band members had been suspended over hazing allegations.

"Despite the challenges we have, I think we have some things we can be proud of," Ammons said.

School officials said Wednesday that four students who were expelled for their role in Champion's death have returned to classes because the investigation is not finished. The status of White also changed. He had faced termination Dec. 22 but is now on administrative leave with pay. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked the university to stop any disciplinary action until a criminal investigation into Champion's death is done.

An attorney for that board informed trustees that Champion's family plans to sue over his death. They have requested the university's insurance information.