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Houston Police Department Releases Jordan Baker Video

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Janet Baker, mother of Jordan Baker and Attorney David Owens discuss federal lawsuit with media. (Jeffrey L. Boney/Houston Forward Times)

Janet Baker, mother of Jordan Baker and Attorney David Owens discuss federal lawsuit with media. (Jeffrey L. Boney/Houston Forward Times)

By Jeffrey L. Boney
Special to the NNPA News Wire from Houston Forward Times

“Houston Police Department Officer Juventino Castro shot and killed Jordan Baker without any lawful justification.”

This is the first sentence that appears in a federal lawsuit filed in The United States District Court Southern District Of Texas against Houston Police Department (HPD) Officer Juventino Castro, the City of Houston, and RPI Management Company, LLC, who are the defendants in a case, by Janet Baker, the mother of Jordan Baker, an unarmed 26-year old Black man who was fatally shot by Officer Castro in January 2014.

The Houston Forward Times (HFT) has been covering the case of Jordan Baker since the very beginning and has been highlighting the concerns and requests of his mother, Janet Baker, who has called on the city of Houston to release video footage from the night of the incident for months. This past Wednesday, December 2nd, after protestors and activists called for the release of the video on that Monday, and on the day that Janet Baker and her attorneys filed the federal lawsuit, the city of Houston and HPD finally released the long-awaited 2014 video.

The Monday protests came on the heels of the arrest of a police officer in Chicago who has been charged with the first-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American man who had been shot to death 13 months earlier. After two independent journalists and an attorney requested the video be released and sued to gain access to the video, a judge ordered the dashcam video be released, which subsequently contradicted the official account given by officers as to what happened on the night McDonald was shot. The released video shows McDonald walking away from officers and shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, including several times after McDonald was already on the ground and posed no threat. In their official reports, officers claimed that even after McDonald had been shot by Van Dyke, that he tried to lift himself off the ground with a knife pointed toward the officers, and though he had been mortally wounded, still presented a threat.

In December 2014, the department officially recorded the shooting as a justifiable homicide, and nothing was done to hold anyone accountable for the death of McDonald until the video was released. Janet Baker and several community activists are hoping the release of the video and the lawsuit shed light on what truly happened to Jordan that night – and gets him justice.

“I had to move forward with this lawsuit in order to get justice for my son Jordan,” said Janet Baker. “My son had every right to be where he was. My son was unarmed and did not deserve to die. Jordan was racially profiled and considered a criminal. I believe that justice delayed is not justice denied. This is just another step in fighting for justice for Jordan.”

The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jordan Baker, is being handled by Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based law firm, which has made police misconduct one of its primary specialty practice areas.

Although the video does not show footage of the actual shooting of Jordan, Loevy & Loevy attorney David Owens said that the video is crucial evidence in this case.

“It is important for us to understand why this confrontation happened in the first place,” said Owens during the Wednesday press conference outside the federal courthouse where the lawsuit was filed earlier that day. “Having this video gives us a glimpse as to some of the things that occurred that fateful night and we plan to review all videos to gain a better understanding.”

On January 16, 2014, Jordan Baker was riding his bike through the Northwest Houston strip mall where Officer Castro mistakenly identifying Jordan as a suspect. Officer Castro told investigators Jordan lunged at him and charged towards him, prompting him to discharge his weapon, firing the one shot that killed Jordan. Officer Castro, who was the only witness to the shooting death, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, and in December 2014, a Harris County grand jury decided not to indict Officer Castro.

Since the grand jury decision, Janet Baker has looked for answers to what happened to her son, while the city of Houston and HPD held on to the video footage for two years.

Many in the community found it coincidental that the city of Houston and HPD decided to release the video on the day the lawsuit was filed.

Community activist Deric Muhammad states that after the Monday protest, the city and HPD indicated that they would not release the video because they were bound by state law.

“Police officers may lie, but cameras don’t lie. The release of the police tapes in Chicago and Houston prove that the Code of Silence exists in every police department across America,” said Muhammad. “Why does it have to take protests, lawsuits and begging for the city of Houston and HPD to just do the right thing? Officer Castro has not been indicted and we needed for HPD to release the video so the public could see what really happened.”

Muhammad had warned that if the city of Houston and HPD refused to release the video immediately, that similar protests that took place on Michigan Ave in Chicago, regarding Laquan McDonald, would have happened right here in Houston.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said the decision to release the footage was not related to the lawsuit and that she and her staff were not even aware of the lawsuit. Parker explained that her decision to release the video footage came after discussion among her staff, HPD and the city legal department, once HPD had completed its internal investigation.

“It has been the legal department’s position that because there is pending litigation we shouldn’t release it,” Parker said. “And I respect the legal department but I don’t always agree with them.”

Both Parker and HPD Charles McClelland described the decision to release the video as an effort toward “transparency” and Parker indicated the city needed to have a uniform policy on releasing any type of HPD-related video, especially there has been a lot of community concern and pushback concerning the recent vote by Houston City Council to purchase body-cameras, without having an effective policy in place that both the community and HPD agree upon.

The initial introduction of the federal lawsuit gives the community insight as to how Loevy & Loevy plan to tackle this case.

The Introduction reads:

1. Houston Police Department Officer Juventino Castro shot and killed Jordan Baker without any lawful justification. Before Defendant Castro shot Jordan Baker—a 26-year-old father and college student—he been simply riding his bike through a strip mall near his home. Baker had been committing no crimes at all. Nonetheless, Defendant Castro chose to confront Jordan Baker because he was an African American man wearing a hooded sweatshirt. That confrontation ended with Jordan Baker being murdered by Defendant Castro.

2. Because of his status as a police officer, Defendant Castro has not been held accountable for his actions. No criminal charges were ever filed, and he has not even been removed from the Houston police force.

3. Tragically, the shooting of an unarmed citizen by a member of the Houston Police Department was not an isolated incident. Instead, the City of Houston has experienced a rash of such police-involved shootings of unarmed individuals, and particularly African-Americans, in such a manner that they are de- facto City policy. Nonetheless, the City of Houston has not done anything to address the pervasive shooting of unarmed individuals by its officers. And, like Defendant Castro, the City has not been held accountable for its actions (and inactions) concerning the shooting of unarmed individuals by its officers.

4. This action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeks justice—and accountability—for the wrongful, unjustified killing of Jordan Baker and seeks to deter the wrongful, unjustified shootings of others at the hands of the Houston Police Department.

The Houston Forward Times will keep its readers up-to-date on the details surrounding this major development in the case we continue to cover, involving Jordan Baker.

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Schumer: “Any Unnecessary Delays to Honor Harriet Tubman, Especially for Political Reasons, Are Improper and Unacceptable”

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

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Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a new letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General formally requesting an investigation into the Trump Administration’s decision to delay release of the redesign of the twenty-dollar bill.

More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

Leader Schumer is demanding answers to the official explanation by the Trump Administration about why the bill’s release has been delayed. In the letter, Leader Schumer specifically requests that the Treasury Inspector General examine whether political considerations played a role in the decision to delay the release and why the Treasury Secretary suggested that it would take a decade or more to produce a new $20 bill.

The request seeks a review of the involvement of the interagency process related to the redesign—including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations did not taint the process to recognize Harriet Tubman’s heroic legacy.

Leader Schumer’s letter also comes after he successfully secured the establishment the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Tubman’s hometown, Auburn, NY– which was formally established in January 2017. Schumer fought for years to make Tubman Park a reality. He authored, introduced, and passed legislation authorizing the park and lobbied federal officials to secure the establishment of the park.

Full text of Leader Schumer’s letter is below and a PDF is here

The Honorable Eric M. Thorson
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Inspector General Thorson:

I write to request that your office investigate the circumstances surrounding the Department of Treasury’s decision to delay redesign of the $20 note featuring the portrait of Harriet Tubman, including any involvement by the White House in this decision. More than three years ago, Secretary Jacob Lew announced that he had ordered the acceleration of redesigns of the $20, $10 and $5 notes, and that the “final concept design” of the $20 note, including Harriet Tubman’s portrait, would be released in 2020.

Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, however, all mentions of the Tubman $20 bill were deleted without explanation from the Treasury Department’s website. Then we learned, according to recent testimony by Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a decision had been made to delay the release of the new $20 note until the year 2028. The Treasury Department subsequently refused to confirm that Harriet Tubman’s image would ever appear on the new note – notwithstanding recent reports that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has already completed extensive planning work on the redesign effort.

We do not know the real reason for these decisions, but we do know that during his campaign, President Trump referred to efforts to replace President Jackson’s likeness on the front of the $20 note as “pure political correctness.” Secretary Mnuchin attempted to explain the delay as necessary to accommodate anti-counterfeiting measures, but it is simply not credible that with all the resources and expertise of the U.S. Treasury and Secret Service, a decade or more could be required to produce a new $20 bill. If the Empire State Building could be completed in 13 months almost 100 years ago, the 21st century Treasury Department ought to be able to get this job done in a reasonable period of time.

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary American and New Yorker whose story deserves to be shared with current and future generations. She deserves to be honored for her bravery, compassion, and service to the United States. There is no reason to reverse the original decision to recognize her heroic legacy on the $20 note. Any unnecessary delays, especially for political reasons, in redesigning the $20 note in her honor are improper and unacceptable.

For these reasons, I ask that you conduct an investigation into decisions made at the Treasury since January of 2018 regarding the delay of the redesign of the $20 note. I also ask that you review the involvement of other participants in the interagency process related to the redesign – including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations have not been allowed to infect the process for designing American currency.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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IN MEMORIAM: Sterling Tucker, Civil Rights Leader and Activist Politician, Dies at 95

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

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Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: @councilofdc / Twitter)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

Tucker was an active part of the Poor People’s Campaign and organized Solidarity Day, a 50,000 member protest in Washington D.C. on June 19, 1969. The Poor People’s Campaign was started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in 1968. It would be continued under the direction of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s chief lieutenant, after King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Poor People’s Campaign was focused on economic justice for poor people in America. Today that work is continued by Rev. William Barber II. Sterling Tucker worked alongside Reverend Abernathy and Coretta Scott King in what was the first formal activist effort to bring economic justice for African Americans.

Tucker served on the first District of Columbia City Council from 1969 to 1974, as home rule was established and served one term. He was also chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. During the early 80s he began a consulting firm called Sterling Tucker and Associates and in 1990 was chairman of the American Diabetes Association.

“He was fundamental to the leadership of the city,” former city council chairman Arrington Dixon told the Washington City Paper about Tucker. Dixon remembered Tucker as mild mannered but impactful. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Tucker to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sterling Tucker is survived by his two daughters, Michele Jeffery and Lauren Tucker; four grandchildren and many friends and colleagues.

His body laid in repose in the John A. Wilson Building, where the D.C. City Council meets in Washington and funeral services took place at the McQuire Funeral Home on Georgia Avenue NW. The Tucker family asked that donations be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 15829, Arlington VA 22215 and Trinity Episcopal Church Outreach Ministry to the Homeless, 7005 Piney Branch Road N.W., Washington DC 20012.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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PRESS ROOM: 100-year old legendary African-American debate coach awarded 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from NSDA

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

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The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

100-year old legendary African-American debate coach Dr. Thomas Freeman has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Speech & Debate Association.

Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

Freeman was the Texas Southern University debate coach for six decades before his retirement in 2013. Freeman recently celebrated his 100th birthday on June 27, 2019.

“The National Speech & Debate Association is deeply honored to award Dr. Freeman with our 2019 lifetime achievement award,” said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association. “Our members, board members, coaches, and students hold Dr. Freemen with such high esteem – he’s like a celebrity within our organization. Freeman is the epitome of who our members hope to become – someone who defies the odds and uses the power of words to propel change. His words of encouragement at our National Tournament in Dallas will always echo through our hearts.”

About the National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered nearly two million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.  

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Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)
Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Award-winning actress and ‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community.

The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues in April of this year. They have held hearings on mental health and the increasing number of suicides among black youth. The CBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health is chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The members of the task force are Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis,” Henson said. Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth.

“I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising,” she said. “I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” the actress added.

“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study discovered that black adults utilize mental health services at half the rate of white adults.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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The Storied History of the NAACP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said.

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Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. (Photo: The Oklahoma Eagle)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The NAACP plans to highlight 110 years of civil rights history, and the current fight for voting rights, criminal justice reform, economic opportunity and education quality during its 110th national convention now happening in Detroit.

The five-day event which began on Saturday, July 20, will also include a session on the 2020 Census, a presidential roundtable, CEO Roundtable, and LGBTQ and legislative workshops.

“We are excited to announce the 110th annual convention in Detroit, my hometown,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“For me, it is a homecoming and I will also be excited to announce our theme for this year which is, ‘When we Fight, We Win,’” Johnson said.

Winning is what the NAACP was built on – winning battles for racism, freedom, justice and equality.

The NAACP was formed in 1908 after a deadly race riot that featured anti-black violence and lynching erupted in Springfield, Illinois.

According to the storied organization’s website, a group of white liberals that included descendants of famous abolitionists Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard; William English Walling, and Dr. Henry Moscowitz, all issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice.

About 60 people, seven of whom were African American, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, answered the call, which was released on the centennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Echoing the focus of Du Bois’ Niagara Movement for civil rights, which began in 1905, the NAACP aimed to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.”

Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice.

“The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes,” Johnson said.

The NAACP established its national office in New York City in 1910 and named a board of directors as well as a president, Moorfield Storey, a white constitutional lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association.

Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs. Despite a foundational commitment to multiracial membership, Du Bois was the only African American among the organization’s original executives.

Du Bois was made director of publications and research, and in 1910 established the official journal of the NAACP, The Crisis.

By 1913, with a strong emphasis on local organizing, the NAACP had established branch offices in such cities as Boston, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

NAACP membership grew rapidly, from around 9,000 in 1917 to around 90,000 in 1919, with more than 300 local branches.

Joel Spingarn, a professor of literature and one of the NAACP founders formulated much of the strategy that fostered much of the organization’s growth.

He was elected board chairman of the NAACP in 1915 and served as president from 1929-1939.

The NAACP would eventually fight battles against the Ku Klux Klan and other hate organizations.

The organization also became renowned in American Justice with Thurgood Marshall helping to prevail in the 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that overturned Plessy.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was disproportionately disastrous for African Americans, the NAACP began to focus on economic justice.

Because of the advocacy of the NAACP, President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to open thousands of jobs to black workers when labor leader A. Philip Randolph, in collaboration with the NAACP, threatened a national March on Washington movement in 1941.

President Roosevelt also set up a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to ensure compliance.

The NAACP’s Washington, D.C., bureau, led by lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped advance not only integration of the armed forces in 1948 but also passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

NAACP Mississippi field secretary Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie would become high-profile targets for pro-segregationist violence and terrorism.

In 1962, their home was fire bombed, and later Medgar was assassinated by a sniper in front of their residence. Violence also met black children attempting to enter previously segregated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and other southern cities.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s echoed the NAACP’s goals, but leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, felt that direct action was needed to obtain them.

Although the NAACP was criticized for working too rigidly within the system, prioritizing legislative and judicial solutions, the Association did provide legal representation and aid to members of other protest groups over a sustained period of time.

The NAACP even posted bail for hundreds of Freedom Riders in the ‘60s who had traveled to Mississippi to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow policies.

Led by Roy Wilkins, who succeeded Walter White as secretary in 1955, the NAACP collaborated with A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other national organizations to plan the historic 1963 March on Washington.

The following year, the Association accomplished what seemed an insurmountable task: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” Johnson said.

“With new threats emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast and immovable than ever before to help create a social political atmosphere that works for all,” he said.

The NAACP provided all historical information for this report.

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VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

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Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter is dragged from the courtroom following her sentencing for unlawful interest in a public contact, after she illegally helped her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter appeared overcome with emotion as she was literally dragged from a Cincinnati courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday, July 22, after she was sentenced to six months in jail for charges stemming from a controversial conviction in 2014.

A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract after she was accused of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

With a courtroom packed with supporters — and many more who stood outside of the proceedings — Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dispensed Hunter’s punishment.

Prior to sentencing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote a letter asking the court to consider having Hunter undergo psychiatric evaluation based on questions he has about what he calls Hunter’s “mental condition,” according to reporting from WLWT5.

Hunter’s attorney David Singleton disagreed with the request, adding that he “couldn’t believe” Deters would ask the court to have Hunter undergo evaluation and that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the case.

With all of the support Hunter has received based on both real and perceived biases during the initial trial and appeals process, Mayor John Cranley wrote a letter to Dinkelacker asking him not to place Hunter in prison, saying that she has suffered as a result of her conviction and doesn’t appear to pose any risks to others.

Postcards were sent to Dinkelacker’s house asking for leniency in his sentencing. He read some of the postcards during the hearing.

“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge,” Hunter said.

At least one of Hunter’s supporters was arrested at the courthouse after trying to intervene when deputies attempted to take Hunter into custody.

Others shouted, “No Justice, No Peace,” and accused the court of racism.

In June, former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney had expressed to NNPA Newswire that Hunter’s incarceration was “going to be a problem” and the city would “explode. I’m telling you, black people [in Cincinnati] are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly,” Kearney said. “The city is on edge.”

Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.

The jury that rendered the guilty verdict in her trial was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.

For example, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.

Court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors that arrived at the guilty verdict, which required a unanimous decision from the jury.

Hunter said that the only three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately yielded to pressure from other jurors. The judge refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.

In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each is in agreement with the verdict.

“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter told NNPA Newswire in June.

“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.

At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and “if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.

Hunter also wanted her supporters to know that she is not suicidal.

“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs … I have no intention of harming myself,” she said.

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