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Items filtered by date: Monday, 01 May 2017

Howard Commencement Honors Ground-Breaking Women Prestigious Institutions Celebrates 149th Graduation Class in its 150th Year

WASHINGTON - Howard University, one of the nation’s premiere institutions of higher learning, will honor four ground-breaking women during its annual commencement, including an award-winning journalist, the first African-American woman Episcopal priest, an acclaimed scholar and critic and the first African-American U.S. Senator from California.

Journalist Maureen Bunyan, the Rev. Anna (Pauli) Pauline Murray, scholar Eleanor W. Traylor and Sen. Kamala Harris will receive honorary doctorate degrees May 13 at the university’s 149th commencement.

“These remarkable honorees embody the spirit and aspiration that guides Howard’s mission of excellence in truth and service,” said Howard University

President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “We are pleased to honor for the first time a distinguished panel comprised of all women. We also embrace and recognize the sterling contributions of women all over the world and certainly here at Howard University. These women dedicated their talents and lives to improving the world and all lives.”

Harris, who will also be the commencement speaker, Bunyan, Traylor will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters while Murray will be posthumously awarded with an honorary Doctor of Laws.

Howard University celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. A private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.

Its students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Over the past 20 years, the University has produced four Rhodes Scholars, nine Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, over 60 Fulbright recipients, 22 Pickering Fellows and one Schwarzman Scholar.

Harris, was the first African-American and first woman to serve as attorney general of California and the second African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. As attorney general, helped secure the National Mortgage Settlement against five banks that gave $12 billion of debt reduction for the state's homeowners and $26 billion overall. Other parts of the funding would go to state housing counseling services and legal help for struggling homeowners and forgiving the debt of over 23,000 homeowners.

Harris served two terms as district attorney of San Francisco. As D.A., Harris started a program that gives first-time drug dealers the chance to earn a high-school diploma and find employment. In 2009, Harris wrote Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer. She was elected to the U.S. Senator in 2016. She received her bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1986.

Bunyan is an award-winning journalist who spent more than 40 years an anchor for newscasts on Washington television stations WJLA and WUSA. She is a founder and board member of the International Women’s Media Foundation, and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.

She was named a "Washingtonian of the Year" in 1992 and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Washington Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, "The Silver Circle" of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Broadcast Pioneers Club of Washington. Ms. Bunyan also attended Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where she earned a Master's degree.

Traylor is a graduate professor of English at Howard and acclaimed scholar and critic in African-American literature and criticism. Her work has appeared in the form of chapter essays, biographies, articles, and papers on such writers as Larry Neal, Henry Dumas, Toni Cade Bambara, Margaret Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Richard Wright. She is the author of Broad Sympathy: The Howard University Oral Traditions Reader, The Humanities and Afro-American Literary Tradition and cultural scripts for the Smithsonian Institution’s Program in Black American Culture. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, a Master’s degree from Atlanta University and a doctoratefrom Catholic University, where she pursued her interests in African-American literature and mythology. She later received a Merrill Scholarship to the Stuttgarter Hochschule in West Germany and a research fellowship to study at the Institute of African Studies in Ghana and Nigeria.

Murray, was an American civil rights activist, women's rights activist, lawyer, and author. who became one of the first women ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1977. She was a quiet force behind some of the most iconic civil rights and social justice events of the 20th century. Thurgood Marshall regarded her book, “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” as the “bible” in crafting his arguments for famous Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case that ended legal segregation in public schools.

Along with Betty Friedan and 30 others, Murray was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. Murray was graduated first in her class, but she was denied the chance to do post-graduate work at Harvard University because of her gender. She was the only female in her Howard University Law School class in 1944 and graduated first in her class. She earned a master's degree in law at University of California, Berkeley, and in 1965 she became the first African American to receive a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale Law School. She died in 1985.

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue joined President Trump for a Farmers Roundtable at the White House to discuss improving American agriculture

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will chair a task force on rural prosperity created by an Executive Order signed by President Trump.

(Washington, D.C., April 25, 2017) - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today joined President Trump for a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House to address issues facing the American agriculture community, as the president signed an Executive Order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The roundtable discussion allowed representatives from all corners of American agriculture to raise concerns and share ideas, just as the task force begins its mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the president’s order. The session capped a busy first day in office for Perdue, who was sworn in by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture before greeting employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and travelling to the White House for the roundtable.

“The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don’t have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day,” Perdue said. “President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side.”

Farmers Roundtable

The Farmers Roundtable featured more than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed with President Trump and Secretary Perdue a variety of topics, including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill. Participants in the roundtable included:

• Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, OK

• Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, PA

• Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, MI

• Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, OH

• Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, GA

• Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, MN

• Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, FL (also farms in the state of KS)

• A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, CA

• James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, NC

• Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, IA

• Jose Rojas, VP of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, CO

• Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, CO

• Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, NY

• Steve Troxler, NC Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, NC

“The Farmers Roundtable provided the chance for the President to hear directly from the people on the front lines of American agriculture about what they are dealing with every day,” Secretary Perdue said. “By hosting this discussion, the president has demonstrated his awareness of the plight of American farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, his intention to seek input, and his determination to help.”

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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Files Lawsuit Challenging Georgia’s Unlawful Racial Gerrymander

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed suit against the State of Georgia and its Secretary of State to remedy an unlawful racial gerrymander. The suit, filed in federal court in Atlanta, claims that the redrawing of lines for Georgia House of Representatives Districts 105 and 111, in 2015, was done with a racially discriminatory purpose to favor the election of White incumbents. The complaint alleges violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Mid-decade redistricting has become another tactic used by those who seek to suppress the rights of minority voters in the face of racial demographic change,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Lawmakers in Georgia explicitly used race to reconfigure district boundaries to guarantee the reelection of white incumbents. This kind of racial gerrymandering is not only unlawful, but illustrative of the ugly racial discrimination that infects the political process in Georgia today.”

“The history of the struggle to disenfranchised people in the nation demonstrates that power concedes nothing without a demand. This litigation represents our demand that the 'we' in 'We the People' include all people,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro Civil Rights Attorney, and Georgia NAACP President. “In the fight to secure the right to vote and elect the candidates of our choice, the NAACP will mortgage every asset we have. These rights are sacred. Hallowed no less by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before us."

“The people of Georgia deserve an electoral system that is fair and free of decisions based on racial gerrymandering and partisan gamesmanship,” said Jennifer Dempsey, Partner, Bryan Cave, LLP. “We hope this lawsuit will advance that cause.”

“As the authors of the Voting Rights Act knew, the right to vote is one of the most important rights of the citizens of this country,” said Gregory Phillips, Partner, Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP. “This lawsuit is brought in order to ensure that all citizens of the State of Georgia, irrespective of color or party, will be able to exercise that right freely and fairly.”

The Georgia House of Representatives is composed of 180 members, each of whom is elected from a single-member district. Traditionally, states adopt a new redistricting plan every ten years, after the decennial Census, so as to comply with the Constitution’s “one person, one vote” requirement. The Georgia legislature, however, has repeatedly sought to amend its post-2010 redistricting plan for its House of Representatives, even though there is no legitimate reason to do so. It most recently did so in 2015, when it passed House Bill 566 (“H.B. 566”) in ways that departed from normal procedures. For example, African American legislators serving on reapportionment committees were excluded from the process of determining the changes.

Most important, H.B. 566 used race as the predominant factor to allocate African-American and other minority voters into and out of House Districts 105 and 111, so as to reduce the ability of African-American and other voters to elect candidates of their choice. These changes were made against the backdrop of a growing African-American population in those two districts and recent elections that saw White Republican candidates just narrowly defeating Black Democratic candidates.

The Complaint alleges that the passage of H.B. 566, in the context of the historical discrimination against African Americans in Georgia and racially polarized voting, was intended, at least in part, to reduce the number of minority voters and increase the number of White voters to reduce minority voting strength in Districts 105 and 111, and was a racial gerrymander in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the Complaint alleges that the redistricting plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander as it creates political classifications without any legitimate legislative objective.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and several individuals who live in the contested Districts. Working with the Lawyers’ Committee as pro bono counsel are the law firms of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and Bryan Cave. The suit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.

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Women Leading The Way – Salute to Women in STEAM Pop-Up Live Museum

SAN BERNARDINO, CA – Mobile Commerce Digital Technology Alliance and Girls Got Geek will host the 2nd Annual Women Leading The Way Pop-Up Museum: Salute to Women in STEAM. This edutainment event will feature a magnificent living museum to inspire and motivate young girls and ignite their interest in science, technology, engineering, math, and other non-traditional careers. Honorees will share personal stories of what it takes to be successful in areas where women are underrepresented.

Women continue to advance in education and the world of work. Yet in spite of these advances, women still lag behind in non-traditional fields.

“I believe we are what we see,” said museum Curator Cynthia Frazier. “What is a girl to do when she doesn’t see herself in a career field?” she continued.

This is a unique, fun, educational event where history will magically be transformed into life by local students and adults. Guests will enjoy an interactive, hands on, multidimensional art exhibition, performances, a video gallery, an elegant conversation reception, and special recognition by local elected officials.

In addition, a special monologue tribute from the play Ashbury Tree, written over five years ago by the late Richard O. Jones will be presented by Martha Brantley Jackson, Director and Monica McMurtry, Actress. The play is a story about Henrietta Lacks.

WHERE: San Bernardino Valley College 701 South Mt. Vernon St. B100 (Lot 11) San Bernardino CA 92410

WHEN: Sunday, May 7, 2017 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm

PURPOSE: To inspire curiosity about the contributions of women in STEAM through the enjoyment of visual and performing arts

AUDIENCE: Youth and their parents, educators, business and community leaders

HONOREES: Arlene Garcia, Director at Job Corps, Andrea Jones, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Dispatcher, and Dr. Deborah Small

For more details, or to RSVP, visit www.WomenL eadingTheWay.EventBrite.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 219 S. Riverside #193 Rialto CA 92376

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Love, solidarity trumps hate in Virginia community, prompts healing after hate crimes

After the ugliness of hate crimes aimed at two faith communities in Annandale, Va., this week, there has been a show of solidarity and support in the face of those hurtful messages — at a news conference announcing the arrest of a suspect on Maundy Thursday, and with prayer vigil attended by hundreds of people Saturday night, on the eve of Easter.

"When we go through something traumatic like this it's important to be witnesses, that we see it, to understand what happened," the Rev. David Lindsey, pastor of Little River United Church of Christ said, "to recognize the hatred that was here and move through that, and through these wounds we can begin to move forward."

Little River United Church of Christ hosted the vigil of healing and reconciliation, which drew people of many faiths and backgrounds to the sanctuary on April 15, days after anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim messages and swastikas were spray-painted on its building, church sign and banner announcing Holy Week services. The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCCNV), just a mile down the road, was the target of anti-Semitic graffiti late Monday, the first night of Passover.

Candles_2.jpgThe leadership of both houses of worship gathered with local law enforcement at the JCCNV Thursday afternoon, April 13, to announce the arrest of a suspect in the crime.

Police took a 20-year-old college student, Dylan Mahone, into custody Wednesday night. He is also suspected of posting anti-Semitic flyers in March at the school he attends, Northern Virginia Community College.

Rev. Lindsey offered thanks "to the extraordinary community" that embraced the church and the JCC after the crimes were discovered.

"These crimes involved hateful phrases born of white supremacy, but the overwhelming response of our neighbors has spoken volumes about God's love for all," Lindsey said.

Candles_4.jpg"People of all faiths and of no particular faith have reached out to the Jewish Community Center and Little River United Church of Christ to offer their support and assistance. Neighbors have literally rolled up their sleeves to clean windows for faith communities that are not even their own. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been reminded this week that there are folks in this community who don't want us here, but we have also rejoiced as the sound of hate speech continues to be drowned out ever more fully here in Fairfax County by the joyous cries of our increasingly diverse community, cries that speak of this county and this country as a place where freedom of worship, freedom of speech, and love of neighbor will win the day.

Lindsey's message was underscored by the participants at the Saturday night prayer vigil, who ringed the sanctuary in the darkness holding candles high to light their way.

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“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!”

“Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.” [Ezekiel 34: 1-10]. “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-2) “I will remove [you] from tending the flock so that [you] can no longer feed [yourself]. I will rescue my flock from [your] mouth, and [they] will no longer be food for [you]. May the sword strike [your] arm and [your] right eye! May [your] arm be completely withered, [your] right eye totally blinded! [Zechariah 11:17]. Behold, I am going to feed [you] wormwood and make [you] drink poisonous water, for from the prophets of Jerusalem pollution has gone forth into all the land [Jeremiah 23:15]… False Prophets and Empty Oracles! “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning ... [James 4:9].

If you only knew the pain and frustration you have caused Christ, [Jeremiah 9-11] you would tremble in shame. I weep when I think about you standing at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You have prophesied lies to the people. You have taught them after the imaginations of your own hearts. Instead of “crying aloud, sparing not, lifting up thy voice like a trumpet, and showing the people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” [Isaiah 58:1] you have taught false doctrines. I want you to know that when the Spirit says, ‘Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith Yahweh,’ the words are straightforward and plain.” I tell you as [Ezekiel 22:25] makes it very clear, “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey….. “ Pastors, Bishops, Preacher, Minister, Prophets, Apostles, Teachers, whatever you want to call yourself, ‘take heed’ to what is being said. This message is not light writing that can be easily dismissed for, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you….” [Deuteronomy 30:19]. I tell you, you ought to treat your position with great fear and trembling as you are very accountable before God! [Acts 20:28].

“Am I now trying to win the approval of people, or of God? … If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” [Gal. 1:10].

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!” [1 Timothy 4:6].

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Serena Williams Responds to Racist Remark About Her Unborn Child

Serena Williams, a 23-time grand slam tennis champion, has endured both racism and sexism during her career on the tennis court. But when Ilie Nastase, a former French and U.S. Open champion, made a racist comment about her unborn child, Williams made it clear that she would not allow bigotry to affect the next generation of her family.

During the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs in Constanta, Romania, on Friday, a reporter asked Romanian No. 1 Simona Halep a question about Williams. Nastase, who is the Romania Fed Cup captain, interjected with his thoughts on the potential skin color of Williams’ unborn child.

“Let’s see what color it has,” British and Romanian reporters quoted him as saying. “Chocolate with milk?”

Williams, 35, is engaged to Alexis Ohanian, 33, who is white. Ohanian is the co-founder of Reddit. She announced April 19 on Snapchat that the two are expecting their first child.

Ironically, because of his verbal abuse against British players last weekend, Nastase was provisionally suspended from all International Tennis Federation (ITF) events. He verbally assailed Great Britain team captain Anne Keothavong and British player Jo Konta, who was brought to tears. Nastase, 70, will have to wait at least two weeks to find out if the federation will take further action against him, according to Reuters. He earned a reputation for controversial behavior during his playing days.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Williams condemned Nastase’s comments against her child, and his comments against her peers. Williams also said she supports ITF’s decision to suspend him.

“It disappoints me to know we live in a society in which people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers,” the post says.

“I have said it once and I’ll say it again, this world has come so far but yet we have so much further to go. Yes, we have broken down so many barriers — however there are a plethora more to go.

“This or anything else will not stop me from pouring love, light and positivity into everything that I do. I will continue to take a lead and stand up for what’s right.”

She also quoted a portion of the late poet Maya Angelou’s classic poem “Still I Rise”:

“I am not afraid unlike you. You see, I am no coward. ‘Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words …. You may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air, I rise.’”

Williams is currently ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association and has used her high profile to address sexism in sports.

Raymond Moore said women tennis pros “ride on the coattails of men.”

In 2016 Raymond Moore, CEO and tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, resigned from his position following his sexist comments about women tennis players, including saying the athletes “should be down on their knees” to show gratitude to men.

“When I come back in my next life I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men,” Moore said during a press conference. “They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.”

Williams responded firmly to Moore’s sexist comments.

“Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” Williams said. “I think Venus, myself, a number of players — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister — I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.”

She added, “I think there is a lot of women out there who are more — are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.”

Over the years, Williams has also been a subject of debate regarding body image.

A New York Times article on tennis champion Serena Williams’ physique has stirred up controversy on social media. A long-time advocate for elite professional female athletes shares her perspective.

In 2015, The New York Times published an article the day before Williams’ Wimbledon win with the headline, “Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image With Ambition.”

Freelancer Ben Rothenberg described Williams as having “large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame.” He quotes her as saying, “I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud of it” but then highlights the testimonies of white female tennis players who don’t want to have her physique.

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote, “… By Friday afternoon, many readers were aghast. They were calling the article (and even The Times itself) racist and sexist. They were deploring the article’s timing, which focused on body image just when Ms. Williams was triumphing at Wimbledon.”

In a SELF magazine article published in September, Williams said she wouldn’t change anything about her body.

“I love my body, and I would never change anything about it,” she said.

“I’m not asking you to like my body. I’m just asking you to let me be me. Because I’m going to influence a girl who does look like me, and I want her to feel good about herself.”

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Farewell to “The Main Ingredient” of Classic Soul : Music Monday & Cuba Gooding Sr.

If you listened to soul music in the 70’s, then the name ‘Cuba Gooding’ didn’t stir images of “Jerry Maguire” or “The People v O.J. Simpson”; Instead the name Cuba Gooding made fans sway and swoon to the rhythms of hard core soul music.

Cuba Gooding Sr.’s raspy, soulful voice helped push his singing group “The Main Ingredient” to the top of the charts in the 70’s. The group that took the idea for its name from the label of a Coke Cola bottle was a hit with their first lyrics. Their first hit charted in 1970 with the song “You’ve Been My Inspiration”, but their “Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling in Love)” had all the right ingredients to land “The Main Ingredient” into the Top 10.

The soul group finally found its flow and a year later soared to the top of the charts again as the voice of a generation with the Black-power anthem “Black Seeds Keep on Growing”. Just as their star was rising, tragedy would cause their spirits to fall. The group’s lead singer, Donald McPherson died of leukemia. The group mourned, but didn’t lose momentum and quickly made one of the back up singers, Cuba Gooding, the new front man. It was the right singer and the right season.

With Gooding on lead vocals, the group recorded its first smash hit, “Everybody Plays the Fool”. The song not only hit number two on the R&B charts, but crossed over to top the Pop charts as well landing at number three. The group soon released its first hit album “Bitter Sweet”.

The album title “Bitter Sweet” was an appropriate reflection of Gooding Sr.’s early life. Gooding’s father moved to Harlem from Cuba after his wife was murdered because of her ties to the Marcus Garvey movement. He kept a promise made on her deathbed to name his first son Cuba. When Cuba Sr. turned 11, his father died. Leaving childhood pain behind, Cuba Sr. eventually left New York and headed to southern California where his singing career took off and so did his personal life. He married another and the couple had four children. Only one son, Tommy, followed his father’s love for music. Daughter April and sons Omar and Cuba Jr. all were drawn to acting with his namesake having the most successful career.

On April 20th, the harmony that Gooding had spent his life creating turned into heartbreak for fans. Gooding was found dead inside his parked Jaguar in an L.A. neighborhood. Cause of death has not been released at this time. Gooding died a week before his 73rd birthday.

His son Cuba Jr. shared his grief with friends and fans on IG with an album cover featuring his dad and a one word caption-“Eternal…”

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Broad Coalition of Legislators, Educators and Parents Back 3 Bills to Stop Waste, Fraud and Abuse, Ensure Equal Access for All Students at California’s Charter Schools

SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers, educators, parents and a broad coalition of community supporters joined for a news conference today in the State Capitol to shed light on a very important package of bills that must be enacted to ensure California charter school accountability and transparency and to also ensure unbiased access to all students.

SB 808 by Sen. Tony Mendoza, AB 1478 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer and AB 1360 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta would address many of the injustices and fraudulent practices that are negatively impacting California’s students.

SB 808 would ensure local control by allowing charter schools to be authorized only by the school district in which the charters would be located. “It is important, especially as an educator, to have people engage in open discussion about ensuring that our children’s educational system continues to improve. Part of ensuring that our education system advances is to make sure that all schools – charter and traditional – are held accountable for the concerns of parents and students,” said Senator Mendoza, author of SB 808.

AB 1478 would require charter school governing boards to comply with existing laws rightfully demanding transparency and accountability to parents and the public in the operation of taxpayer-funded schools.

“Evidence shows that this lack of accountability has led to financial gains for for-profit corporate charter operators, has too often been disastrous for thousands of California students and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse,” said Terri Jackson, California Teachers Association Board Member and fourth-grade teacher in Contra Costa County. “Public education should be about kids, not profits. Instead of subsidizing corporate charter schools run by for-profit companies with taxpayer dollars, we should be using the money to strengthen our local neighborhood public schools for all California children.”

The California Federation of Teachers also co-sponsored the bills urging lawmakers and the governor to enact them to stop the fraudulent and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. “By creating non-profit shells, charter corporations are able to hide behind a technicality to skim off profits from public dollars. AB 1478 will help put an end to this practice, and this package of bills will make charter schools more accountable overall,” said Gemma Abels, a CFT Vice President and president of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers.

AB 1360 would set new requirements for charter schools’ admission, suspension and expulsion policies, bringing them more in line with traditional schools. “AB 1360 provides equal opportunity for our students by ensuring they have fair access to learning opportunities in all publicly funded California schools,” said Assembly Member Bonta. “Our young people must not be disadvantaged or pushed out of learning environments through unfair admissions policies or disciplinary rules. AB 1360 puts our children first.”

The impact on California’s students has raised many red flags for community supporters around the state, causing heightened attention, concern and action to ensure social justice, equity and consistent application of policies for all students regardless of ZIP code.

"The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color is co-sponsoring AB 1360 because we are committed to ensuring all schools have nondiscriminatory admissions policies and procedural protections for students in place guaranteed by the right to due process that are clear and consistent,” said Jordan Thierry, Senior Associate, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. “This legislation will help ensure decisions related to admissions or disciplinary actions are not arbitrary, but rather based on established guidelines aligned with state and federal law."

Support for these bills is widespread. In fact, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, at the helm of the district where there are many recent cases in which the FBI is investigating fraud and fiscal mismanagement at charter operations like at Celerity Educational Group, adopted a resolution April 18 in support of this legislation that would provide much relief for the students in LAUSD schools.

“These bills reflect the idea that all publicly funded charter schools must adhere to the same accountability and transparency standards as district public schools. In Tuesday’s vote, the School Board signaled that the Trump/DeVos ‘anything goes’ agenda to privatize our public schools is not welcome in Los Angeles,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl about the school board’s action. “We applaud George McKenna, Steve Zimmer, Scott Schmerelson, and Richard Vladovic, all veteran classroom teachers, counselors, and school administrators, who led the charge in this important vote.”

During the 2016 statewide campaign and, once again, in the school board election in Los Angeles, corporate billionaires with a coordinated agenda to privatize public schools are spending millions of dollars to elect candidates whose agenda is aligned to theirs. A concerned group of educators, parents and community supporters launched Kids Not Profits. The campaign exposes privately managed charter schools, their impact on students, the billionaires behind them and urges supporters to take action to demand that state lawmakers create stronger charter regulations, more accountability, transparency and equal access for all students.

Recent news headlines and academic studies have documented the waste, fraud and abuse by privately managed charter schools that have cost taxpayers millions while hurting students. A new report from national nonprofit In the Public Interest finds that much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.

In a report released earlier this month, Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and, in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices.

An ACLU report, “Unequal Access,” found that more than 20 percent of California’s charter schools deny access to students with disabilities, English learners, or students who have lower grades and test scores. The NAACP recently called for a ban on privately managed charters.

Charter school scandals continue to make headlines, while another report shows that an expansion of privately run charter schools would cost the Los Angeles Unified School District more than $500 million this year alone.

And important to note, research by In The Public Interest shows Californians overwhelmingly favor proposals to reform charter schools—proposals that include strengthening charter school accountability and transparency, improving teacher training and qualifications, preventing fraud, returning money to taxpayers when charter schools close, and ensuring that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.

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Climate Change Is Now

The damage from climate change isn’t just coming in the future. It’s part of the present, as this weekend’s issue of The New York Times Magazine points out.

“Last year, melting permafrost in Siberia released a strain of anthrax, which had been sealed in a frozen reindeer carcass, sickening 100 people and killing one child,” Jon Mooallem writes. “Parts of Washington now experience flooding 30 days a year, a figure that has roughly quadrupled since 1960. In Wilmington, N.C., the number is 90 days.”

Yet in the face of this urgent challenge — one that affects all of humanity, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, America and the rest of the world — President Trump has chosen to accelerate climate change. He and his aides are encouraging pollution.

What can you do about it?

You can get involved politically, and you should. Participate in efforts to persuade the administration and Congress to take a different tack. Strive to elect people who take climate change seriously. But such work has a long lead time and an uncertain outcome.

In the meantime, you can do something else, as well: Look for ways to influence companies, communities, cities and states, all of which can have a big effect on the climate. In these realms, there is reason for optimism — and room to do so much more.

This week, Walmart announced that it planned to remove one billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by 2030. “That’s more than the annual emissions of Germany,” writes Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is working with the company. “It’s the equivalent of taking 211 million cars off the road every year.”

Cities — including New York, Mexico City, Shenzen and others — have also taken big steps. Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, the former head of the Sierra Club, have a new book out, with many more details on what can be done. (Tom Friedman talked about their book in his column this week.)

These actions are not a full replacement for action by national governments, as Nick Stockton of Wired notes. Trump’s pro-pollution policy will do great damage. But climate change is too big a problem for defeatism. Even now, there are many ways for citizens to act.

The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Holly Fernandez Lynch and Steven Joffe on the story of Henrietta Lacks.

Also, on climate and Trump: Keep an eye out for a Sunday Review package going online later this morning, including Bill McKibben on the time w

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