Ignited by Injustice—How George Floyd Changed the World

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By Jovane Marie

George Floyd: Life and Death
Floyd’s last moments – recorded for the world to witness – set off a series of events that have further propelled the conversation of police brutality and systemic racism to the forefront of the national conversation.

His death made an indelible mark on the world. But his life made a mark, too. Family and friends of the father of five describe him as a gentle giant and hard worker who moved to Minneapolis with eyes on a new beginning.

Although not exempt from mistakes and the hard lessons of life, the 46-year-old was on a journey to be the best father, provider, and man he could be.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, protests erupted as the Black community, echoed by their fellow citizens of all races, national leaders, and the global village, decried the senseless violence and demanded justice.

“When I first heard about what happened, I was emotionally overwhelmed by anger, sadness, and a sense of disbelief,” said Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the historic National Urban League, which works to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and a guarantee of civil rights to the underserved in America.

“Even though we know Black men are proportionally brutalized by police, it was still a shock to see these officers, fully aware that they were being recorded, treat a life with such casual disregard.”

The four Minneapolis officers involved were promptly fired. However, it was four days before the first arrest was made. Chauvin, the most senior officer, has since been charged with an upgraded count of second-degree murder, while the other three are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Memorial services for Floyd, paid for by boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, were held in both Raeford, North Carolina (where he was born) and his hometown of Houston (where he was laid to rest next to his mother).

Both services drew thousands, including prominent community and national leaders, activists, celebrities, professional athletes, and – most notably – the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Botham Jean, and Pamela Turner. The outpouring and noted names in attendance signified the impact of the moment.

“He once said he wanted to touch the world,” recalled Jonathan Veal, Floyd’s longtime friend, in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. Then teenagers, they were discussing what they wanted to do with their lives.

“That comment, back in the eleventh grade, was prophetic in nature,” he added. “He is literally having a global impact.”
In Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, joined by Illinois Governor JB Pritzer, officially declared the day of his burial – Tuesday, June 9 – as George Floyd, Jr. Day.

Memorial Service For George Floyd Held In Minneapolis
Members of George Floyd’s family speak during a memorial service at North Central University on June 4, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“We must never forget the name George Floyd or the global movement he inspired,” Hidalgo shared in a statement. “It has taken far too long for us to get here, but we must lean forward and work to make meaningful change in our nation.”

The series of events – emotionally charged and heavy – was unfortunately not an anomaly.

Floyd’s name joined a chorus of others on an ever-growing list of Black lives lost to violence perpetuated by a system of institutional racism and bias.

Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor
In the months and weeks leading up to Floyd’s killing, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and (to an initially less publicized extent) Breonna Taylor caught the nation’s attention.

On February 23 in Glynn County, Georgia, 25-year-old Arbery was out jogging when he was chased, cornered, and gunned down by father and son duo Gregory and Travis McMichael, both white. Video of the shooting, leaked at the request of the elder McMichael – a former police officer and DA investigator – went viral and elicited immediate outrage. Recusals in two district attorney offices, however, contributed to a two-month delay in their arrests. They were finally arrested on May 7, and on what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday four days later, tens of thousands across the country commemorated his memory with a 2.23-mile run.

On June 24, both men, including a third who joined in the pursuit and recorded the footage, were indicted on nine counts, including malice murder, felony murder, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Memorial Service For George Floyd Held In MinneapolisLess than a month after Arbery’s killing, 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her home by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers executing a “no-knock” warrant. Initially drawing little media attention, publicity on her case erupted as activists pushed to include her name in the narrative and a social media campaign to #SayHerName went viral.

The three officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative reassignment, but it took until June 23 – more than three months later – for just one termination to be made. In response to the tragedy, the Louisville, Kentucky, Metro Council unanimously passed Breonna’s Law, which outlaws “no-knock” warrants and requires officers’ body cameras to be turned on before and after every search.

Separated by a razor thin margin of occurrence, the murders of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd were a painful reminder of the injustices that Black Americans have endured for far too long.

“The pain that the Black community feels over this murder and what it reflects about the treatment of Black people in this country is raw and spilling out into streets across America,” said Floyd’s family in a statement. “We need Minneapolis and cities across the country to fix the policies and training deficiencies that permitted this unlawful killing – and so many others – to occur.”

Enough
Protests and demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been ongoing for years. Since the birth of the movement in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, dozens of names have been added to the list of Black lives snuffed out by racial prejudice and state-sanctioned violence.

But the seemingly back-to-back killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – compounded by disturbing video footage of the Arbery and Floyd murders and initial delays in charges being brought in all three cases – proved to be the boiling point.

In the days following Floyd’s murder, streets in almost 4,000 cities and towns on four continents swelled with protesters marching, chanting, and demanding justice.

And while the message – Black Lives Matter – was the same as all the years before, these protests were markedly different in both size and scope. Within weeks, support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from polling and analytics company Civiqs.

US-POLITICS-RACISM-JUNETEENTH
Demonstrators arrive at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during a Juneteenth march in Washington, DC on June 19, 2020. The US marks the end of slavery by celebrating Juneteenth, with the annual unofficial holiday taking on renewed significance as millions of Americans confront the nation’s living legacy of racial injustice. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The increase overwhelmingly included white people who had been previously silent about, blind to or critical of the existence and prevalence of systemic racism and the reality of police brutality among the Black community.

“The protests themselves are very similar to the ones that followed other police shootings and fatal assaults of unarmed Black men, such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, with one notable exception – the rising involvement of white protestors,” said Morial. “What has made these protests really different is the way they have been received by the broader public.”

“Now, the world is paying attention. Congress is paying attention. Corporations are paying attention,” he added. “The message is finally breaking through.”

Members of prominent organizations, such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the Movement for Black Lives, Color of Change, and the National Action Network, weren’t the only voices leading the charge and standing on the front lines, either.

In cities large and towns small, everyday citizens – from high school and college students to blue collar workers and stay-at-home mothers – stepped up to the plate, organizing protests and rallying other supporters. Harnessing the crucial power of social media, these novice activists collectively added thousands of new and powerful voices to an already resounding call for justice.

The call has not just manifested vocally. Poignant art, including drawings circulated on social media, murals paying tribute across the country, and “Black Lives Matter” painted on main streets in cities including Washington, D.C., New York City, Sacramento, and Seattle, have accompanied and amplified demonstrations.

While protestors have been largely peaceful as they march and demand accountability, occasional bouts of rioting and looting, perpetrated at least in part by white participants unattached to the movement (evidenced by multiple videos posted to social media), have peppered demonstrations. Peaceful marches have also been marred by video evidence of excessive police force and misconduct, with at least 40 lawsuits being brought by protestors across the US.

Despite these obstacles, protests have maintained a clear vision of their foundational goals: to demand police accountability and reform, to stand in solidarity with the families of the fallen, to dismantle institutional racism, and to declare that Black Lives Matter.

Solidarity
More and more, this declaration is permeating the population and drawing increased support. According to a recent national Civiqs poll, more than half (52 percent) of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Beyond the streets, that support has manifested into millions upon millions of dollars in donations and financial pledges to justice and Black-centered organizations, including Black Lives Matter Global Network, the NAACP, the ACLU, The Bail Project, and Color of Change.

Solidarity has also come in the form of celebrities, professional athletes, sports leagues, and community influencers contributing their voices and leveraging their massive platforms to demand change, condemn racism, and amplify Black voices.

The NFL, in a surprising reversal, has backtracked on their criticism of player protests and clearly stated their support for #BlackLivesMatter.
In droves, businesses and corporations have taken public, official stances proclaiming their support for Black Lives Matter and promising to take action steps to enhance representation and diversity within their ranks.

The Confederate flag, decried by many Americans as a relic of hatred and racism, has been banned from display on Navy bases, Marine Corps installations…and even NASCAR.

The centering of Black voices, commitments to internal restructuring, and pledges of far-reaching financial support have set the stage for transformational change. Now, the work to bring true equality and justice for all must commence in earnest.
And we’ll have to work together to bring it to pass.

Ally Up
Several factors have contributed to the reach, sustainability, and impact of protests following the murder of Floyd; the horrific footage, the convergence of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and overwhelmingly, the growing number of non-Black supporters joining the fight and aligning themselves as allies.

Alongside large multi-racial cities, citizens in small, mostly white towns (including Vidor, Texas – once a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan), organized and took the streets. Viral videos showed white protestors physically placing themselves between Black protestors and police officers to create a barrier. White celebrities, influencers, and politicians handed over their Instagram accounts to Black creators, journalists, and activists in an effort to amplify their voices. And sales of anti-racist books by thought leaders such as Dr. Ibram Kendi (How to be an Anti-Racist) and Dr. Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility) have skyrocketed.

The journey to become an authentic and effective ally for people of color is not an easy one. Adherents must commit to centering Black voices and truly listening, educating themselves on systemic racism and its effects, speaking up within their areas of influence, and sitting with the discomfort of admitting their own biases and prejudices.

It is, however, of the utmost importance to get involved. In the fight for justice and equality, everybody has a role to play.

Actions
There is a long road ahead in the fight for justice for all. While the destination, a society free of institutional and systemic racism that truly values Black lives equally, is one most all agree on, there are a number of proposed routes.

But our feet are on the road.

Cities across the country are re-evaluating their police policies and tactics, with the local governments and law enforcement agencies of at least 23 cities completely or partially banning the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints. Some departments have committed to additional training and increased transparency.

In Washington, D.C., House Democrats have unveiled the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” comprehensive legislation aimed at overhauling policing. It includes a chokehold ban, creation of a national registry to track police misconduct, and a grant program to fund independent investigations of misconduct.

The call to defund the police has also gained momentum, presenting itself as a controversial solution to the call for justice. Advocates argue that reducing police funding to instead reinvest in Black communities and reallocate to social programs (such as mental health, poverty, and homelessness) is the best way forward.

“Our focus should be on communities that have been deeply divested from, that may have never felt the impact of having true resources,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. “What we’re asking for is a reinvestment in how we understand what’s needed in our communities. Why is law enforcement the first responders for a mental health crisis? Why are they the first responders for domestic violence issues? Why are they the first responders for homelessness? Those are the first places we can look into.”

The final solutions, whatever forms they take, will be influenced not only by the voices in the streets but also by one of the most important actions of all: voting for change.

“The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice…but eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices – and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands,” said former President Barack Obama in an essay posted to Medium.

“The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”

World Changer
Gianna Floyd, the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd, doesn’t know all of the details of her father’s untimely death. What she does know, as she hears his name chanted in the streets and sees his face plastered on posters, is that he has made an undeniable impact. In her very own words, “Daddy changed the world.”

She’s not wrong. We’ve protested about police brutality and systemic racism before. But today’s demands – amplified by the traumatic footage of Floyd’s murder, the uncertainty and inequalities of a viral pandemic laid bare, and the rallying cry of the global community – are reverberating louder than ever and demanding immediate and impacting change. Despite the rage and heartache, Gianna’s daddy has become a catalyst in our collective journey toward justice.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” said Morial. “Sometimes we take one step back, as we have seen with the spike in hate crimes and racially inspired violence over the last several years. But for every step back, we take two steps forward.”

Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega Is Using Art to Uplift Brown and Black Women

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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

In 2017, Afro-Latinx visual artist Reyna Noriega began her career as a full-time creator. Little did she know that in just a few short years, she would have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, would be working with huge brands like Apple and Old Navy, and would design a cover for The New Yorker. Born and raised in Miami to a first-generation Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega, who is best-known for her bold, vibrant, graphic work, was destined to be an artist.

“My father is also an artist, and I became interested early on in just the magic of it all, being able to bring ideas to life on paper and communicate in a universal language,” Noriega told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. “I was always the ‘sensitive kid’ feeling a lot and thinking a lot, so art and writing were great outlets for me to get all of that under control and to be able to process my emotions.”

Now, Noriega’s art is being seen on a much wider scale and impacting thousands of people who follow her on social media or see her art on city walls and T-shirts. To get there, she had to put in a lot of work, including studying and learning on her own, despite the fact that she took art classes throughout high school and minored in art in college. Using the help of books and YouTube, Noriega honed her skills and eventually left her job as a teacher, with the full support of her parents.

“I was very fortunate that my family believed in me and my ability to make my passion a career and even help me make it happen! To this day, my mom is the person that helps me run my online shop, and they encourage me to strive higher,” Noriega told us.

By 2019, Noriega started doing brand work, after getting comfortable with her style and what she wanted to represent as an artist. It gradually became easier for her to align herself with brands that had the same mission. She is currently working on Amex’s “Always Welcome” design collective launch, which will provide businesses with signage for their storefronts and indicate their stance on inclusivity.

“Honestly, every time I get an email, I am honored and humbled that my name enters rooms I never thought would. From companies whose products I used to save up for at one point, like Apple, to legendary publications like The New Yorker, or having thousands and thousands of people wear a shirt I designed with Old Navy. It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Ultimately, it was Noriega embracing her culture and her commitment to advocating for Black and brown people through her art that got her there. She says her Afro-Caribbean culture is what brings “vibrancy and flavor” to her art. But we think it’s so much more than that. With just a single glance, it’s obvious that Noriega’s background informs her work. Her use of color, the way she showcases the female form, the various complexions and skin tones she celebrates in her work, and the stunning, tropics-inspired botanical scenes she often creates speak to exactly who she is and where she comes from.

“Art has always been a place I look to boost my mood, museums, galleries, [and] learning about art history. But unfortunately in those spaces, rarely did I ever feel I belong, because my story wasn’t told on those walls, and in the rare occasion it was, it only highlighted the struggles and traumas,” she said. “I wanted to create work that would lift moods and raise the self-efficacy of Black and brown women with positive representation and vibrant depictions of joy.”

Noriega describes the art she creates with a tremendous amount of care and respect. Her mission is to create art that represents and uplifts communities that are often left out of the conversation. “I focus on women because as a woman, I know all of the challenges and barriers we face,” she said. “Inequalities in pay, harmful messaging on body image, the ongoing fight for body autonomy . . . it can be really exhausting. Add on to that the challenges being a BIPOC, and it just magnifies. My art is meant to celebrate women, inspire joy, and a reclamation of peace and rest.”

Noriega recognizes how important it is to not only amplify voices like hers but also to use her gifts and resources to speak up for people who don’t have the same advantages that she does. Even as a Black Latina, she’s cognizant of the privileges she has and the responsibility associated with them. “For me personally, I often look at my identities as a privilege, which pushes me to amplify Black voices even more. I am all too aware of the advantages I have received being a Latina in Miami, and even being ethnically Caribbean, although my race is Black,” she said. “Being able to say where your lineage comes from is a privilege many Black Americans don’t have. I have been unfairly judged and treated and had some very hurtful comments said to me, but I must also be aware of how my skin tone provides privileges, how my heritage provides privileges, and how knowing more than one language is a privilege.” And in recognizing that, she’s able to leverage her position to empower others in really visible ways.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

Rihanna honored as ‘national hero’ of Barbados

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By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Rihanna’s homeland wants her to continue to “shine bright like a diamond.”

The singer was honored Monday in her native Barbados during its presidential inauguration, which served to mark the country becoming a republic.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the crowd, “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go,” Mottley said.

The makeup and fashion mogul was appointed as an ambassador of Barbados in 2018.

According to a statement from the Barbados Government Information Office released at the time, the position gives the celeb “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism, and investment for the island.”

She also became one of the Caribbean island country’s cultural ambassadors in 2008, doing promotional work for its tourism ministry.

In a move that received a great deal of support in the country, Barbados formally cut ties with the British monarchy by becoming a republic almost 400 years after the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

How Black tech entrepreneurs are tackling health care’s race gap

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entrepreneurs photo: (from left) Kevin Dedner founded Hurdle, a mental health startup that pairs patients with therapists. Ashlee Wisdom's company, Health in Her Hue, connects women of color with culturally sensitive medical providers. Nathan Pelzer's Clinify Health analyzes data to help doctors identify at-risk patients in underserved areas. Erica Plybeah's firm, MedHaul, arranges transport to medical appointments.

By Cara Anthony, NPR

When Ashlee Wisdom launched an early version of her health and wellness website, more than 34,000 users — most of them Black — visited the platform in the first two weeks. “It wasn’t the most fully functioning platform,” recalls Wisdom, 31. “It was not sexy.” But the launch was successful. Now, more than a year later, Wisdom’s company, Health in Her Hue, connects Black women and other women of color to culturally sensitive doctors, doulas, nurses and therapists nationally.

As more patients seek culturally competent care — the acknowledgment of a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — a new wave of Black tech founders like Wisdom want to help. In the same way Uber Eats and Grubhub revolutionized food delivery, Black tech health startups across the United States want to change how people exercise, how they eat and also how they communicate with doctors.

Inspired by their own experiences, plus those of their parents and grandparents, Black entrepreneurs are launching startups that aim to close the cultural gap in health care with technology — and create profitable businesses at the same time.

Seeing problems and solutions others miss
“One of the most exciting growth opportunities across health innovation is to back underrepresented founders building health companies focusing on underserved markets,” says Unity Stoakes, president and co-founder of StartUp Health, a company headquartered in San Francisco that has invested in a number of health companies led by people of color. He says those leaders have “an essential and powerful understanding of how to solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.”

Platforms created by Black founders for Black people and communities of color continue to blossom because those entrepreneurs often see problems and solutions others might miss. Without diverse voices, entire categories and products simply would not exist in critical areas like health care, experts in business say.

“We’re really speaking to a need,” says Kevin Dedner, 45, founder of the mental health startup Hurdle. “Mission alone is not enough. You have to solve a problem.”

Dedner’s company, headquartered in Washington, D.C., pairs patients with therapists who “honor culture instead of ignoring it,” he says. He started the company three years ago, but more people turned to Hurdle after the killing of George Floyd.

In Memphis, Tenn., Erica Plybeah, 33, is focused on providing transportation. Her company, MedHaul, works with providers and patients to secure low-cost rides to get people to and from their medical appointments. Caregivers, patients or providers fill out a form on MedHaul’s website, then Plybeah’s team helps them schedule a ride.

While MedHaul is for everyone, Plybeah knows people of color, anyone with a low income and residents of rural areas are more likely to face transportation hurdles. She founded the company in 2017 after years of watching her mother take care of her grandmother, who’d had to have both legs amputated because of complications from Type 2 diabetes. They lived in the Mississippi Delta, where transportation options were scarce.

“For years, my family struggled with our transportation because my mom was her primary transporter,” Plybeah says. “Trying to schedule all of her doctor’s appointments around her work schedule was just a nightmare.”

Plybeah’s company recently received funding from Citi, the banking giant.

“I’m more than proud of her,” says Plybeah’s mother, Annie Steele. “Every step amazes me. What she is doing is going to help people for many years to come.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Josephine Baker to become first Black woman to enter France’s Panthéon

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Franco-American entertainer Josephine Baker receiving the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre after the second world war.

By the Guardian

The remains of Josephine Baker, a famed French-American dancer, singer and actor who also worked with the French resistance during the second world war, will be moved to the Panthéon mausoleum in November, according to an aide to President Emmanuel Macron.

It will make Baker, who was born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975, the first Black woman to be laid to rest in the hallowed Parisian monument.

A group campaigning for her induction, which included one of Baker’s sons, met Macron on 21 July, Jennifer Guesdon, one of the members, said. “When the president said yes, [it was a] great joy,” she said.

“Panthéonisation is built over a long period of time,” an aide to Macron said.

The Baker family have been requesting her induction since 2013, with a petition gathering about 38,000 signatures.

“She was an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during the second world war in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight,” the petition says.

Another member of the campaign group, Pascal Bruckner, said Baker “is a symbol of a France that is not racist, contrary to what some media groups say”, as well as “a true anti-fascist”.

The ceremony will take place on 30 November, the date Baker married Jean Lion, a Frenchman, allowing her to get French nationality.

The Panthéon is a memorial complex for great national figures in French history from the world of politics, culture and science.

Only the president can choose to move remains to the former church in Paris, whose grand columns and domed roof were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Of the 80 figures in the Panthéon, only five are women, including the last inductee in 2018, Simone Veil, a former French minister who survived the Holocaust and fought for abortion rights.

Click here to read the full article on the Guardian.

All the Black women in us are tired

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black women athletes Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, and Sha'Carri Richardson

By , CNN

The other day I shared a meme that stoked a lot of emotion.

In it, there are pictures of three superstar athletes – tennis player Naomi Osaka, gymnast Simone Biles and track and field sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson – along with a sign that reads, “Y’all Not Gone Stress Us Out – Black Women Everywhere.”

They are women of color (Osaka has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father while Biles and Richardson are African American) and have made headlines recently due to decisions they made to support their mental health.

All three also have something in common which I very much understand – the struggle women of color face in exercising self-care.

As I wrote in the caption of the meme I shared on Instagram, it’s hard being a Black woman.

“We are supposed to save relationships, families, elections, communities, democracy and basically the world all while exhibiting “black girl magic,” but y’all mad when we save ourselves?” I wrote. “Welcome to a new day.”

The heavy load is made worse by the fact that as Black women, we are not socialized to give as much care to ourselves as we are expected to give to others.

Black women are literally expected to be super women, from heading households to serving as emotional support for White people who want to be allies, but need our help figuring out how to get there.

There is an added layer for Black women athletes who have to compete against more than just their opponents.

A 2018 study titled “Beating Opponents, Battling Belittlement: How African-American Female Athletes Use Community to Navigate Negative Images” from Morgan State University in Baltimore examined how they must navigate both racism and sexism in order to become champions.

For example, it noted that Serena Williams – arguably the world’s greatest tennis player with more than 20 Grand Slam wins – has been compared to a “man” and a “gorilla.”

Radio host Don Imus called the players on the 2007 Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos” after they lost to the Tennessee team in the NCAA final.

Osaka, Biles and Richardson have been the targets of racism and sexism before, but even more so recently.

Both Osaka and Biles dropped out of competitions, they said, to protect their mental health and Richardson was disqualified from competing after testing positive for cannabis.

Richardson smoked marijuana legally in Oregon and explained that it happened after a journalist whom she didn’t know broke the news to her about the death of her mother.

The three have been criticized as “quitters,” “arrogant,” “lazy” and “irresponsible” by some on social media. And those are just the words fit to print here.

Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open over a dispute regarding her not wanting to give post-match interviews (she said it stoked her anxiety); Biles withdrew from competitions at this month’s Olympics to focus on her mental health. Richardson graciously accepted a ban, which kept her from competing in the Olympics (she tweeted “I’m sorry, I can’t be y’all Olympic Champ this year but I promise I’ll be your World Champ next year”).

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

George Floyd’s friends have turned their pain into action in the year since his murder

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George Floyd painted mural and speakers talking to news stations on a podium

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

The day after George Floyd’s funeral, Jonathan Veal drove from Houston and back to his Oklahoma City home still grappling with what had happened: his close friend — a brother, really — was killed by a Minneapolis police officer and the brutal video of his last moments had been viewed by millions.

The last time the two had spoken was just several months earlier, in January, when Floyd reached out to say happy birthday. They reminisced over their time playing basketball and football for Houston’s Jack Yates High School. Floyd told Veal about the new life he was setting up in Minneapolis, his efforts to become economically stable and provide for his family and shared that his faith had grown stronger.

At the end of the conversation, Floyd signed off: “With love from 88 to 42” — their old jersey numbers.Veal and Floyd had been a lot more than teammates. They had become family. Alongside their other good friends Vaughn

Dickerson, Jerald Moore and Herbert Mouton, they had spent most of every day together growing up and never lost touch. And now Floyd was gone. Knowing they shared his pain, Veal reached out to his three friends and they began communicating every day — texting, calling, supporting each other, sharing pictures.

“But then, we were like, ‘OK, what do we do?’ We could find a level of closure but also, we could keep the legacy of our friend,” Veal said. “So that’s how 88 C.H.U.M.P. came about.”
The four men say they created the 88 C.H.U.M.P. nonprofit organization — Floyd’s jersey number and an acronym which stands for ‘Communities Helping Underprivileged Minorities Progress’ — as a way to keep Floyd’s legacy alive and address some of the challenges that the community they grew up in, Houston’s Third Ward, has faced for decades. They’ve launched initiatives to tackle systemic inequities, police brutality and opportunities for the inner city youth, among other efforts.
“We understand this is going to be a daunting task,” Veal said. “But we’re committed to it because Floyd gave that much to us.”
But the four weren’t the only ones galvanized by their friend’s killing. Across Houston, others who say they were lucky to know Floyd, the neighborhood’s “gentle giant,” have taken on new efforts in the past year pushing for change in his honor.

‘Blood brothers’
Dickerson, who still lives in Houston, said he had been thinking about creating an organization like 88 C.H.U.M.P. for nearly two decades. He finally shared it with Veal, Moore and Mouton after Floyd’s killing.
“We refuse to let one of our blood brothers from a different mother go out like that,” Dickerson said. “I know he’d be doing it for us, without a doubt.”

Immediately, the four hit the ground running, focusing initially on the November 2020 elections by conducting voter education and registration drives, including events in partnership with the Houston Texans — and helping residents of Houston’s Third Ward community make it to the polls on Election Day.

They set up conversations between the Third Ward community and the local police department. Over the summer, Veal said, 88 C.H.U.M.P. facilitated several dialogues in partnership with Houston police and the group plan to start another round of those conversations this summer.

But perhaps one of their biggest focal points has been the youth.

“We’re trying to actively get more kids involved with after-school programs such as computer literacy, teaching them how to write essays, math, social studies, science,” Dickerson said. “This is what’s needed for these inner-city youths to keep them active. If they don’t have no parks to go to, no boys and girls clubs, no after-school activities, what do you expect, they’re going to get in trouble.”

The group told CNN they’re hoping to set up scholarships for local high school students in Floyd’s honor and create programs that would introduce young adults to professionals and opportunities across different fields.
“It’s just something that we feel like we have to do,” Mouton said. “We have to keep (Floyd’s) name alive and we have to push these initiatives in his honor.”

Finally, 88 C.H.U.M.P. plans to kick off a fundraiser this month for a new football field in the high school they used to play for, a field they say hasn’t changed much in the past three decades.
Ultimately, the organization exists to help level the playing field for underserved communities, Veal said. It’s a long road ahead, he says, but one they’re willing to walk.

“There’s going to be a lot of emotions that come along with that, good, bad, ugly,” he said. “It’s worth it. It’s going to be difficult work, but it’s going to be worthwhile work, rewarding work.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Billy Porter Breaks a 14-Year Silence: “This Is What HIV-Positive Looks Like Now”

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Billy Porter in a black and white photo posed to the side looking at his right hand

BY BILLY PORTER, AS TOLD TO LACEY ROSE, The Hollywood Reporter

Billy Porter takes a long deep breath. “I have to start in 2007,” he says, having settled in across the table. He’s here, at Little Owl in the West Village, to get something off his chest — something that’s been shrouded in secrecy so long, he can barely remember life before.

“In June of that year,” he continues, a ball of nerves, even if the performer in him refuses to let on, “I was diagnosed HIV-positive.” In the 14 years since, the Emmy-winning star of Pose has told next to no one, fearing marginalization and retaliation in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to him. Instead, the 51-year-old, who has cultivated a fervent fan base in recent years on the basis of his talent and authenticity, says he’s been using Pray Tell, his HIV-positive character on the FX series, as his proxy. “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he reveals, acknowledging that nobody involved with the show had any idea he was drawing from his own life.

Now, as the Peabody Award-winning series, a ball-scene drama set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, concludes its third and final season, Porter is preparing for what’s next. There’s a memoir, over which he’s agonized and blown deadlines, set for later this year; a Netflix documentary about his life, which will keep him in business with Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy; a 2021 take on Cinderella, in which he’ll play the fairy godmother; a directorial debut; a host of new music; and much, much more.

But the Broadway-trained actor, who is an Oscar shy of an EGOT, isn’t interested in entering the next phase of his life and career with the shame that’s trailed him for more than a decade. So, with Murphy by his side for support, and a cadre of documentary cameras hovering above, Porter tells his story. An edited version follows.

Having lived through the plague, my question was always, “Why was I spared? Why am I living?”

Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.

Click here to read the full article on the Hollywood Reporter.

The Underground Railroad Team Talks Aaron Pierre’s Distracting Beauty as Caesar — and That Episode 2 Shocker

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Underground railroad actor wearing vintage clothing from the time

By , TV Line

To be clear, The Underground Railroad is a serious and thought-provoking work of art. The 10-part limited series, which Oscar winner Barry Jenkins adapted from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, is now streaming on Amazon Prime and is in many ways a visually rich conversation starter on American slavery and race relations. But part of that visual is Krypton‘s Aaron Pierre as Caesar — who, within five minutes of watching Episode 1, has the ability to make viewers focus on little else but him. Or, as one fan on Twitter phrased it, “he reminds me of Javier Bardem — a face that just wants to be looked at. Powerful looking dude.”

Thankfully, Pierre is a wonderful actor, and his ability to convey great depth with just a slow-boiling sidelong glance is in and of itself a reason to pay attention to him opposite star Thuso Mbedu, TVLine’s most recent Performer of the Week.

Speaking of which, Mbedu says she noticed the London native’s charms as much as viewers have and will — but only as herself. As Cora, who initially and quizzically tells Caesar she won’t run away with him to freedom, she can’t see his handsome face and broad shoulders or hear his seductive baritone voice.

“Caesar was friends with the group who called Cora names at every single turn,” Mbedu recalls. “He was part of that crew. So she’s not seeing him for the god that he is. She’s seeing all the ugly. But that’s Cora. As Thuso, I was like, ‘Hey, Aaron!’”

Jenkins agrees and says Cora’s other hurdles as an enslaved Black woman eclipse Caesar’s pretty blue eyes.

“Cora absolutely would question running away with Caesar because I think in that moment, Cora can’t see anything and she cannot see how beautiful he is,” Jenkins contends. “The only thing she can see is that the person who should want her the most, her mother, abandoned her at this plantation. That’s all she can see. Caesar’s job, as handsome as he is, is to very slowly and subtly remind her that ‘I see you. I need you. I want you. You are special.’ I think that’s the role he plays in her life.”

Click here to read the full article on TV Line.

A new generation of Black male teachers starts its journey in partnership with Apple

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man sitting on a couch in a home while video chatting on his laptop

By Apple Newsroom

For more than 100 years, teaching has run through Hillary-Rhys Richard’s family.

Growing up in Katy, Texas, Rhys, as he’s known to his friends, listened to his mother, Astrya Richard, tell stories of her ancestors — four generations of educators who saw teaching as a calling, and learning as a tool for change.

By the end of high school, Rhys had never had a Black male teacher, and that absence, along with his family’s deep connection to education, helped steer him to follow in their footsteps.

This week, Rhys, 18, will complete his freshman year remotely as part of the inaugural class of the African American Male Teacher Initiative at Huston-Tillotson University. The first-of-its-kind program was created in partnership with Apple as part of the company’s ongoing and deep commitment to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Apple’s multiyear partnership with Huston-Tillotson complements other engagements the company has established through its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, working alongside the HBCU community to develop curricula and provide new learning and workforce opportunities.

At Huston-Tillotson, Apple is providing scholarships for the program’s students, called Pre-Ed Scholars, as well as hardware, software, and professional-development courses for students and faculty.

“Every student should have the chance to be taught by someone who represents them,” Rhys wrote in his application essay to Huston-Tillotson. “In order to build strong children, we need strong male teachers to forge a path through being the example for students. The baton has to be passed for us to continue pushing forward. I stand ready to run my leg of the race.”

Currently, only 2 percent of all US teachers are Black men, something the program at Huston-Tillotson seeks to change. When Black students are taught by a Black teacher, they are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college.

Huston-Tillotson President Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette has witnessed the power of that relationship firsthand. Her son had a Black male teacher in the fifth grade, and it transformed his education.

“It just really did something magical for him,” says Dr. Burnette. “So this is personal for me because of my own experience raising an African American male. It’s my mission to be able to get these young Black men in classrooms, so they can pour into other vessels like themselves because they have shared experiences. And there’s nothing like being taught by someone who has a shared experience.”

It’s the reason Dr. Burnette prioritized the creation of the African American Male Teacher Initiative and sought out a partner in Apple.

Click here to read the full article on Apple Newsroom.

Kendrick Carmouche to be first Black jockey in Kentucky Derby since 2013

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Kendrick Carmouche pictures in a blue jockey helmet while smiling away from the camera with joy

By the Associated Press, ESPN

Long before Kendrick Carmouche started riding horses growing up in Louisiana, Black jockeys were synonymous with the sport.

Black riders were atop 13 of the 15 horses in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 and won 15 of the first 28 editions of the race. Everything has changed since: Carmouche on Saturday will be the first Black jockey in the Kentucky Derby since 2013 and is just one of a handful over the past century.

Carmouche is one of the few remaining Black jockeys in the United States. Much like Marlon St. Julien in 2000, Patrick Husbands in 2006 and Kevin Krigger in 2013, his presence in horse racing’s biggest event is a reminder of how the industry marginalized Black jockeys to the point they all but disappeared from the sport.

“As a Black rider getting to the Kentucky Derby, I hope it inspires a lot of people because my road wasn’t easy to get there and I never quit,” Carmouche said. “What I’ve been wanting all my career is to inspire people and make people know that it’s not about color. It’s about how successful you are in life and how far you can fight to get to that point.”

Carmouche is the son of a jockey, and he has won more than 3,400 races and earned $118 million since beginning to ride professionally in 2000. He came back from a broken leg three years ago and set himself up for his first Kentucky Derby mount by riding 72-1 long shot Bourbonic to victory in the Wood Memorial on April 3. Bourbonic will leave from the 20th post in Saturday’s race at Churchill Downs.

He is also a rarity in a sport now dominated by jockeys from Latin America.

“Obviously there haven’t been many in recent decades, but if you go back to the early years of the Derby, the late 1800s, early 1900s, Black jockeys dominated the Kentucky Derby,” NBC Sports analyst Randy Moss said. “Guys like Isaac Murphy and Jimmy Winkfield.”

Carmouche joins St. Julien as the only U.S.-born Black jockeys in the Derby since 1921, which even then was long after the era dominated by Murphy, Winkfield and others.

Chris Goodlett, a historian at the Kentucky Derby Museum, cited a combination of Jim Crow laws and segregation in the United States, intimidation by white riders, and decisions by racing officials, owners and trainers for the decline of Black jockeys in the early 20th century. One example was white counterparts riding Winkfield into the rail at Harlem Race Track outside Chicago and injuring him and his horse.

“Consequently, white trainers and owners would be [more] reluctant to ride Black jockeys on their horses due to instances like that,” Goodlett said. “We see it also just from an administrative point of view, as well: fewer licenses being issued to Black jockeys, sometimes not issued at all.”

Brien Bouyea, communications director for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, said many Black jockeys left for Europe because of better working conditions and never returned. Manny Ycaza came from Panama and blazed a trail for Latin American jockeys, who used riding schools and other factors that changed on-track demographics.

Along the way, participation by Black people in the Kentucky Derby ebbed and flowed with significant contributions along the way, including grooms Will Harbut with Man O’War in 1920 and Eddie Sweat with Secretariat in 1973 and trainer Hank Allen with Northern Wolf in 1989. Harbut’s great-grandson, Greg Harbut, co-owned 2020 Derby runner Necker Island and helped found the Ed Brown Society, named after the 19th-century Black jockey and trainer, to further diversify racing.

Husbands was well aware of his place in history when he rode Seaside Retreat in the 2006 Derby and said he feels a connection to Carmouche this year because “the steppingstone that he’s doing for his culture is the same stuff I was trying to do for my culture.”

He said Carmouche becoming the first Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902 “would be a blessing. It would bring tears to a lot of people’s eyes.”

Click here to read the full article on ESPN.

Ask a Black therapist: 4 ways to support Black people’s mental health

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A young man cries while being consoled by female friends during a group therapy meeting.

By Ashley Vaughan, CNN

“There is a difference between being informed and getting retraumatized.”

That’s what clinical therapist Paul Bashea Williams tells himself and his clients as they struggle with the distressing images that resurfaced during the Derek Chauvin trial.

The proceeding churned up a persistent trauma. The frequent replay of George Floyd’s final moments may have left many feeling raw, vulnerable and without relief.

While the evidence surrounding Floyd’s death is distressing for most people, it is overwhelming for African Americans — and especially excruciating for Black men who see their very humanity reflected in him.

“Sometimes you are visualizing you,” says Williams, lead clinician and owner of Hearts in Mind Counseling in Prince George and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Ninety percent of his clients identify as Black.

In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder and Chauvin’s trial, African Americans are fighting harder than ever to protect and prioritize their mental health.

Caught between hope and hopelessness
According to Williams, his clients are continuously cycling through feelings of hope and hopelessness. While many hope for justice, they are also bracing for disappointment, one that feels familiar when unarmed Black men and women are killed by police officers.

Williams also points out the secondary trauma African Americans experience from the images and video surrounding Floyd’s death.
“It is the emotional and psychological effects experienced through vicarious exposure to the details of traumatic experiences of others,” he says.

Among the private concerns Black men have shared with Williams are “feeling anxiety around leaving the house” and “depression over not having control over one’s life.”

Tip 1: Acknowledge your feelings

Take a moment to be present with yourself and to name the feelings and experiences you may be having, Williams suggests. To begin, you can start with this question, “What am I experiencing now?”
The answer to that question may be fatigue, headaches, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, irritability, and anxiety. Emotional and physiological responses can be helpful gauges of knowing when enough is enough.
“If I know what is happening in my environment, I can allow myself to make shifts,” he says.

Tip 2: Create community

A trusted support team is helpful in gently identifying changes you may not readily see in your mood or behavior. The therapist is clear that one’s self-care community must be grounded in relationships they can trust.
Helpful communities can flourish online through group texts and at socially distanced meetings.

Tip 3: Prioritize self-care with boundaries

In his practice, Williams helps his clients identify ways to care for their mental health in their everyday lives. One way to do this individually is to take an internal inventory of moments when you historically experienced joy.
Williams mentions that, culturally, Black individuals are often taught to care for others ahead of themselves, while balancing the pressures that come with daily life.
“We have to have self-advocacy. We have to prioritize ourselves,” he says. “And it is not selfish.”
To begin this process, Williams suggests asking yourself, “What are the things I liked growing up?” and “What are the things I like now?”
Williams says this step is often unfamiliar for men.
When asking male clients “What does your self-care look like?” he’s often met with blank stares and hesitation.
“They were like, ‘Man, I don’t know what that is,'” he says.
Seeing this need among his clients and social media following, Williams created a men’s self-care calendar to help men rediscover their own individual needs.
The next step is to create boundaries to prioritize needs. For example, Williams says using the “do not disturb” option on a phone is one way of “putting the responsibility on the boundary.”
“Boundaries allow you to protect yourself,” he says. “Boundaries are like a set of rules that you have in order to function, and to have healthier experiences with people, places and things.”

Tip 4: Seek therapy

“It is important for the Black community to get into therapy,” Williams says.
He recommends finding a therapist whom you trust and who fits with you.
“Your first therapist might not fit,” he cautions.
When seeking a clinician, he encourages individuals to try out therapists. He also recommends pushing back if you feel you aren’t getting enough in sessions.
“Be empowered to find another therapist.” He says. “Say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel like I am getting what I need. Can we try something else?'”
And, if your therapist isn’t working out, Williams recommends acknowledging it and finding someone who may be a better fit.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Long Marred By Racism, St. Louis Elects 1st Black Female Mayor

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Mayor-elect Tishaura Jones speaking away from the camera with a mask hanging off her left ear

By , NPR

Voters in St. Louis last week delivered a historic victory for Tishaura Jones, the first Black woman elected mayor and the latest triumph for progressive candidates in the St. Louis region.

Amid unrest at local jails, surging gun violence, and a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt people of color, Jones said the race will no longer be an afterthought in the mayor’s office.

“We are done avoiding race and how it holds this region back,” she told NPR’s All Things Considered.

The current city treasurer, Jones ran on a progressive platform — calling for a “reimagining” of public safety and promising to close the Workhouse, one of the city’s pretrial detention centers that has come under fierce scrutiny for inhumane conditions. After being sworn in on April 20, she intends to shut down the Workhouse within 100 days.

Voters on Tuesday also fueled a progressive flip of the Board of Aldermen, and recent years have brought a wave of progressive candidates into office, including St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush and Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones.

In discussing her second run for mayor (Jones ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 mayoral election), she brought up her 13-year-old son. Jones recalled the two talking about what, exactly, the mayor does.

“I said, ‘The mayor is over the police and trash and firefighters,’ and named all the departments,” Jones said. “And he said, ‘Oh, you’ll be over the police? That means I’ll be safe.’ And that statement just hit me like a ton of bricks because I shouldn’t have to run for mayor in order for my son to feel safe.”

After a campaign that did not shy from conversations about race and policing, Jones is determined to bring that focus to the mayor’s office: “We have not had the opportunity to have those difficult and tough conversations about the systemic racism that permeates every policymaking decision in our region and in our city.”

In the interview, Jones was critical of the city’s police union. Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, responded to Jones’ comments by directing NPR to a statement made after last week’s election: “We congratulate all of yesterday’s winners and we commit to continue to partner with them or anyone else willing to do the hard work of making this city a better, safer place to live.”

The following excerpts from the interview have been edited for length and clarity.

Click here to read the full article and interview on NPR.

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  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
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    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022