Black Stars Shine at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

idris elba wins sag

SAG shows the Oscars how to appreciate diversity.

The Screen Actors Guild displayed its appreciation of black actors Saturday night.


Several black performers received SAG awards for TV performances: Queen Latifah for her role as blues singer Bessie Smith in Bessie, Viola Davis for How to Get Away With Murder, Uzo Aduba forOrange Is the New Black and Idris Elba for his role in Luther.


Elba took center stage when he also won the supporting actor prize for his role in the film, Beasts of No Nation, which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences overlooked for an Oscar nomination.


“Welcome to diverse TV,” he said, sending a clear message to academy members who nominated only white actors for Oscars for a second consecutive year.


The Oscar snub of actors of color unleashed a barrage of criticism for the lack of diversity among its voting members.

“This is what happens when you have the SAG group—a group of very diverse people who understand the work that we all put in and that we all deserve the same opportunities,” Queen Latifah told the Los Angeles Times backstage.

Davis told the L.A. Times that this group of black actors won because of “effective” performances.


She added: “They won because the actors have craft, they have a level of excellence that reaches people—and we’re actors too. We’re artists, too. We deserve to be a part of it and I think you saw that tonight.”


SAG Awards Committee Chair JoBeth Williams said her organization “worked very hard to reflect the real world.”



Black Stars Shine at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

President Obama Approves Emergency Aid to Flint, Mich.

flint water tower

The federal emergency declaration will cover much of the cost for clean water to the largely poor and black city. Meanwhile, calls grow louder for the governor’s resignation. 


The White House declared a federal emergency in Flint, Mich., Saturday to alleviate the city’s lead contaminated water crisis, the Detroit Free Press reports.


President Barack Obama’s response releases up to $5 million and authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts. This action will cover 75 percent of the costs for providing clean water, filters and other items to residents.


The president rejected Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s appeal for a disaster declaration, which would have allocated more federal funds and resources. Under federal law, only catastrophes caused by natural disasters are eligible for a disaster declaration, compared to the lower-level federal emergency declaration.


Unlike a disaster caused by a hurricane, Flint’s water emergency is man-made. In 2014, officials switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The more polluted river water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant, turned out to be corrosive to the city’s pipes and caused toxic levels of lead to seep into drinking water.


Snyder released a statement Saturday expressing appreciation to the president for the federal aid “and supporting Flint during this critical situation.”

Meanwhile, the governor is under pressure to resign over what has become a scandal. Critics say that state officials knew for months that the water supply was unsafe before Snyder declared a state of emergency and sought help from Washington.


Many residents of Flint, a predominantly African-American city, complained about their water’s odor, taste and color shortly after the water supply switch.


But officials ignored those complaints, according to the Free Press. They also downplayed medical reports of elevated lead levels in children.

President Obama Approves Emergency Aid to Flint, Mich.

Watch: Mall of America Security Guards’ Forceful Restraint of Black Teen Girl for Curfew Violation

Mall America Security Guards



The family of a 14-year-old black girl accuses Mall of America security guards of using excessive force to restrain her over a curfew violation, as the local NAACP calls for a boycott, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.


According to Isabella Brown’s family, mall guards approached her around 5 p.m. on Dec. 26 and asked Isabella to leave the shopping center. She was shopping beyond the 4 p.m. curfew for children under 16 without an adult escort.


Following that warning, Isabella walked around the mall’s public transportation area asking for change of a $20 bill. At that point male security guards wrestled her to the ground and restrained Isabella face down, as she screamed for them to get off her back. She was not arrested or charged with a crime.


“My daughter wasn’t resisting,” said Isabella’s mother, Pastor Marea Perry. “She was crying in pain. She was afraid and scared.”


Isabella Brown mall america

Photo Credit: Kyndell Harkness/Star Tribune

The mall said commenting on the “specifics of this situation” would violate its policy. It underscored, however, that curfew violators are given multiple chances to exit the mall and are subject to arrest for failing to comply.

“I was sick to my stomach when I watched the video,” Perry said at a press conference Thursday at Minneapolis City Hall. “She was targeted because she was black.”


The local NAACP and community leaders called for a boycott of the mall at the press conference. The civil rights group is demanding a public apology, the firing of the guards involved and racial sensitivity training for the mall’s security force.

The family is also considering legal options.


Read more at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Watch: Mall of America Security Guards’ Forceful Restraint of Black Teen Girl for Curfew Violation

Canada Denies Refugee Status to African-American Man Who Fears US Police

Kyle Lydell Canty_CBC News Screenshot

Kyle Canty will have to pack his bags and return to the United States after Canadian officials rejected his asylum application, CBC News reports.


The African-American citizen entered Canada back in September. He told border officials in Vancouver that he was coming for a visit but later filed for refugee status.


Canty, pointing to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., said he fears that the police in America will kill him because he’s black. He told Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board that black people in America are being “exterminated at an alarming rate.”


The New York native submitted video evidence of his interaction with police, which included an arrest for trespassing at an Oregon bus station where he was using free Wi-Fi for two hours. Canty, 30, also admitted to several other minor charges, such as jaywalking and disorderly conduct.


The refugee board reportedly acknowledged that the police in the United States disproportionately stop and question African Americans. But it emphasized that refugee status addresses persecution—not harassment.


“I find that the claimant is not a Convention refugee in that he does not have a well-founded fear of persecution for a Convention ground in the United States of America,” the refugee board’s Ron Yamauchi wrote in the decision.


Yamauchi added: “His removal to the United States of America would not subject him personally to a risk to his life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

Prior to the board’s decision, Canty said he would appeal an unfavorable ruling.

Canada Denies Refugee Status to African-American Man Who Fears US Police

Eric Garner’s Widow: No Rest Until All Cops Involved in Husband’s Death Face Justice

Esaw Garner

Eric Garner’s widow Esaw Garner speaks at a press conference next to the Rev. Al Sharpton at the National Action Network in Harlem on Dec. 6, 2014. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Esaw Garner praised the decision to punish a police sergeant at the scene of her husband’s death but vowed Saturday to continue her battle for justice, the New York Daily News reports.


“When they indict Daniel Pantaleo, then I’ll jump for joy. Until then, I’m just gonna keep going on, using your faith and my faith and the sight of God to see that they get what they deserve,” she said at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.


New York City police officials placed Sgt. Kizzy Adonis on modified duty Friday, taking away her gun and shield. An internal investigation ended in departmental charges against the 14-year veteran. Adonis, who is black, was one of the supervising officers at the scene of Garner’s death 18 months ago.

Millions of people around the world have viewed the video of Pantaleo choking Garner, whose dying words were, “I can’t breathe.” Several other officers stood by during Garner’s arrest for illegally selling loose cigarettes.


A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in December 2014. But New York City settled with Garner’s family for $5.9 million.


“We want civil rights charges brought against all of them,” said Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother. “As far as I’m concerned, they all killed my son.”

Eric Garner’s Widow: No Rest Until All Cops Involved in Husband’s Death Face Justice

Baltimore Settles Sex-for-Repairs Lawsuit With Female Public Housing Tenants

Baltimore housing sex for repairs

Baltimore public housing officials agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for up to $8 million with tenants who accused maintenance workers of sexual harassment, the Baltimore Sun reports.


According to the lawsuit, workers demanded sexual favors from the victims in exchange for making repairs. Those who refused the sexual advances endured life-threatening conditions in their units, such as exposed electrical wiring and mold.


“Mistakes have been made here, and some of them very serious,” Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said at a news conference Friday.


NBC News reports that officials fired at least 50 workers at the Gilmor Homes, Westport and Govans Manor projects. No one has been charged with a crime but an investigation is underway.


Sara Garret, one of the 19 female plaintiffs, said two workers harassed her for several years. Court documents said she and her four children lived with exposed wires and a broken stove in their apartment.


Baltimore City Housing officials will relocate Garret and the 18 other original plaintiffs publicly identified in the lawsuit to new addresses.

Other victims will have 60 days after a court and federal authorities approve the settlement to come forward and apply to join the case. All of the plaintiffs will split the settlement.


Graziano vowed to make a number of changes to protect tenants from “the atrocious behavior of a small group of people who inflicted indignity of an indescribable nature.”


Among the changes going forward, officials will conduct ongoing sexual harassment training and establish a computerized system for tenants to request repairs.


Baltimore Settles Sex-for-Repairs Lawsuit With Female Public Housing Tenants

Barbershops Get Stocked With Books for Boys, Thanks to Ala. Attorney

barbershop books

An article published in The Root last year about a Florida barbershop that promotes literacy sparked a movement miles away in the cities of Prichard and Mobile, Ala.

Freddie Stokes launched Books for Boys about three weeks ago. He initially intended to establish small libraries, of about 75 books each, in two or three barbershops, but the response to his initiative was so overwhelming that Stokes says he’s now able to establish libraries in at least six barbershops. The first one will open in mid-June.

“We don’t want to stop until all the barbershops in this community have libraries,” he says, with an air of reserved confidence that it will be done.

Stokes is supplying books with which black boys can identify. “When our boys say they don’t like to read, a lot of that is coming from not being interested in reading about characters that don’t look like them,” he explains. His growing stockpile includes biographies, such as Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, 12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope.

In addition to promoting literacy, Books for Boys aims to raise self-esteem. Stokes grew up in public housing and struggled early in school, having to repeat the third grade. A teacher inspired him to read books, including those about successful African Americans, which allowed him to dream big and ultimately achieve his goals.

Attorney Freddie Stokes leads the effort to build libraries in Mobile Alabama barbershops
Attorney Freddie Stokes leads the effort to build libraries in Mobile Alabama barbershops

Stokes worked in classrooms for two years through Teach for America, an organization that places recent college graduates and professionals in underserved classrooms. He introduced his students to books with positive black characters and watched their self-esteem grow.

“When I went from the classroom to the courtroom, I was able to connect the violence to a lack of reading and self-esteem,” says Stokes, who is also a criminal defense attorney in private practice.

“After reading the article in The Root, I asked myself, why isn’t this [barbershop libraries] in every community?” he recalls. “Then one day I got an epiphany: Just get up and do the work. We can’t wait on the government to do it for us.”

Stokes admits that he didn’t expect the overwhelming response that he received. Barbershop owners said that they are expecting scores of boys to come in over the summer and would gladly offer them books. Parents, sometimes groups of them, are donating with a request that Stokes open a library where they take their sons. And local professionals are opening their wallets to sponsor barbershops, sometimes with a request that Stokes purchase books that emphasize math and science.

In a few short weeks, Stokes’ grassroots effort raised more than $1,500 on GoFundMe. Folks in the community have also given about $800 in cash donations toward the purchase of books. Stokes hopes that this small effort ignites a larger movement that reaches well beyond the Mobile area.

This article originally ran in

Barbershops Get Stocked With Books for Boys, Thanks to Ala. Attorney