Donald Trump takes the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. /Photo by Shevry Lassiter
Donald Trump takes the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. /Photo by Shevry Lassiter


Former Mayor Among Six Sworn in to D.C. Council

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is sworn in Jan. 2 as the Ward 7 representative on the city council at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

On Monday, Jan. 2, six members of the D.C. Council were sworn in, including three who unseated incumbents supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser in a contentious primary.

One of the three elected was former Mayor Vincent Gray, who represents Ward 7.

“Too many people in our city have watched while some neighborhoods benefit from prosperity and others remain stagnant,” Gray said after his victory. “Refuse to accept anything less but success.”

Former Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, who lost her seat to Gray, was among the hundreds of attendees at the swearing-in ceremony at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.

The three councilmen who won re-election: Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who began his eighth term; Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), who won a special election for Bowser’s vacated seat in 2015 and began a full four-year term; and at-large member David Grosso, who began his second term.

At-large Councilman Robert White, Jr., who defeated incumbent Vincent Orange in the Democratic primary, has actually held the seat since September 2016. He was appointed by the D.C. Democratic Party to serve in an interim role after Orange resigned to lead the D.C. Chamber of Commerce following his primary loss.

The last to be sworn in, Trayon White, Sr., who defeated LaRuby May in the primary to represent Ward 8, received a rousing ovation from a large cadre of supporters chanting his campaign’s slogan: Don’t just stand there, do something. Besides being the youngest on the council, the 2002 Ballou Senior High School graduate fills the former seat of the city’s most beloved leader, the late Marion Barry.

“One thing that Barry always said was, ‘Trayon, dream big. Enough of that small thinking,’” White said. “That always stood with me that we can do the impossible, especially with the resources that we have in the District of Columbia.”

Anthony Brown Sworn in as Congressman

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown speaks after being sworn in as a congressman during a ceremonial reception at the James Madison Memorial Building in Southeast on Jan. 3. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

When Democrat Anthony Brown lost in the Maryland gubernatorial race to Republican Larry Hogan in 2014, he had to decide how to reshape his career path.

Brown, a 54-year-old Army veteran and lawyer, had long said public service was firmly ensconced within his DNA. Three years later, he was sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 3 as a representative in the 115th Congress.

“Things are unpredictable and you can’t necessarily see today what is on the horizon for tomorrow,” the former lieutenant governor said after a short ceremony inside the James Madison Memorial Building in Southeast attended by more than 100 supporters. “I’ve always believed if you worked hard and did the best you can, that opportunities open up.”

Brown, who resides in Mitchellville, Md., was earlier sworn in with the Congressional Black Caucus’s 48 other members, the largest iteration in the organization’s history on Capitol Hill.

Still, members face a Republican-controlled Congress with a heavy conservative agenda that includes repealing much of the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was re-elected as the speaker of the House with 239 votes. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) received 190 votes, including Brown’s.

Oldest Son of MLK Reflects on Past, Looks to Future

Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., visits the R.I.S.E. Center in Southeast on Jan. 9 and shares thoughts about his father with Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)

Only 10 years old when an assassin’s bullet ended his father’s life, Martin Luther King III has endured both the burden and joy of bearing the name of one of the world’s most revered and committed leaders to peace, justice and equality.

But in a recent conversation with Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes just days before the King holiday, the oldest son and oldest living child of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King said he views the journey he’s taken in continuing his father’s mission not as a burden but as a calling which he has come to accept with great humility.

“It’s interesting how many people ask my opinion on what my father would say about the current state of affairs in America,” he said. “Despite being his son, I would not presume to be able to speak for Dad. Still, I think that if we refer to his writings — his sermons, his speeches and his essays — we can come closer to understanding his position on many of the world’s most significant and still prevalent evils: poverty, racism, militarism and violence.”

“For example, why does America profit from such an enormous amount of trade dollars yet have so many of its citizens struggling under the weight of poverty? My father clearly objected to this example of injustice and remained committed to bringing about its end until his death. I can confidently say that had he lived, America would have followed a totally different trajectory — even up to our most recent presidential election,” he said.

MLK Parade Tradition Continues in Historic Anacostia

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Peace Walk is held on Jan. 16, the federal holiday honoring the civil rights icon, on MLK Avenue in southeast D.C. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)

On Monday, Jan. 16, the 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Parade, with the theme “We Are One,” honored the life and legacy of the civil rights leader as hundreds marched through the streets of Southeast.

The peace walk preceded the parade and assembled at 2500 MLK Ave SE and ended at the R.I.S.E. Center at 2730 MLK Ave SE. The parade, which moved along a new route this year, aimed to assist businesses located in downtown Anacostia.

King was the main proponent for nonviolent activism during the civil rights movement and successfully protested racial discrimination on both the national and state levels.

“We do this to educate our people about the life and legacy of Dr. King,” said Stuart Anderson, co-chair of the MLK Steering Committee.

The march and parade can both be traced to a tradition that began more than 30 years ago commemorating Dr. King’s life and work that also included the fight to have his birthday recognized as federal holiday. Six years before King’s birthday became a federal holiday, Washington Informer Publisher and philanthropist Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, his wife, former Ward 8 Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark and talk show host and community activist Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene organized the first parade in 1979.

Organizers and participants say they’re committed to continuing the local tradition.

“I’ve come every year for as long as I can remember, even with the gaps,” said Tasha Y., a Ward 7 resident. “Dr. King was an important person and this parade shows how far we’ve come and I want my children to see that.”

Trump Sworn in as 45th President

Donald J. Trump was officially sworn in Jan. 20 as the 45th president of the United States, the culmination of one of the unlikeliest and polarizing runs for the White House in history.

The business magnate, who has never held elected office, ran a combative and intensely divisive campaign that galvanized his hordes of followers but alienated just as many for numerous reasons, including his lengthy mission to prove his predecessor, Barack Obama, wasn’t born in the U.S.

Trump, whose confrontational rhetoric and bombastic oratory style had been his hallmark on the campaign trail, attempted to mend fences as he took office.

“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice . . . Black or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he said during his inaugural speech.

Brown, Black ‘Sisters’ Nonplussed with Women’s March

Women all over the world rang out a message demanding equality on Jan. 21. Over a million women showed up in Washington, D.C. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

The Women’s March on Washington drew a massive crowd on Saturday, Jan. 21 with estimates placing attendance at 500,000 — three times the total of those who viewed the inauguration of Donald J. Trump one day earlier.

More impressive, other “sister marches” concurrently took place in over 600 locations across all seven continents, leading to a global day of action that generated a collective crowd of millions. But despite the numbers, some women of color said they weren’t impressed due to a lack of greater diversity among the participants, adding that while women of all races attended, the wide range of issues that resonated with the collective made it all but impossible to establish any sense of real solidarity.

The event was planned to protest Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his proposed polices that organizers felt undermine women of all walks of life. White women who dominated the organizers of the march were criticized for calling it the Million Women March — the same title used for other marches organized by Black activists in the ’90s.

Issues that leaders of the march said they hoped to address included: reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, freedom from sexual violence, disability and immigrant rights, employment equality, LGBTQ rights and environmental protection. However, some women of color said they lacked a sense of comfort marching alongside white women, who overwhelmingly voted for Trump at 53 percent.


D.C. Teen Writes Children’s Book for Girls in Tech

Sasha Ariel Alston, author of “Sasha Tech Savvy Loves to Code,” a children’s book set to come out in May (Courtesy photo)

After an internship with Microsoft, 19-year-old Sasha Alston of Northeast decided to write a children’s book with the hopes of inspiring young African-American girls to code.

While a senior at McKinley Technological High School in Northeast, she began the process of penning “Sasha Tech Savvy Loves to Code.” Two years later as an information systems major at Pace University in New York City, she finished her first book.

“In high school, I interned at Microsoft and I didn’t know anything about coding but I used coding to make a video game,” Alston said. “I didn’t know all the things you could do with technology like coding video games and I encountered many people who didn’t know, so I wanted to tell people about it. I recently saw the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ and I was totally inspired. I don’t want to be a hidden figure and I don’t want other girls to be either.”

Richmond Brings Bold New Leadership to CBC

Rep. Cedric Richmond (Courtesy photo)

Rep. Cedric Richmond has been a congressman in New Orleans for the past six years. During his tenure, he has experienced some of the best and worst times in the country and has had a front-row seat for all of the action. Now he’s taken on a new challenge as the recently-elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, one of the most powerful coalitions in the nation.

“I have always been interested in serving as chair of the Caucus but over the Thanksgiving holiday, I began to contemplate what life was going to look like in the new environment of the Trump administration and realized that the CBC was going to have to take the lead role in ensuring African Americans have a loud and active voice.”

Richmond said he knows that the next two years are going to be crucial and the only way things are going to get accomplished for African Americans and other disenfranchised communities is if the leadership and members of the caucus have strategic thinking, planning and execution.

“The CBC has never been an organization led or deferred to by seniority and I believed I was best suited to take on this role,” the three-term congressional leader said.

Army Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks

The U.S. Army lifted its ban on hair worn in dreadlocks.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony Moore of the Army’s office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel said the new directive, which was issued in January but not widely reported until the following month, offers female soldiers another option for styling their hair.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, cornrows or twists as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore told the Northwest Guardian. “Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American descent, to be able to wear dreadlocks and locks because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

According to the Army’s directive, each lock or dreadlock, “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than a half-inch; and present a neat, professional and well-groomed appearance.”

Grooming regulations in the different branches of the military have been at odds with natural hair for many years, with female soldiers having pushed for easement on the rules since 2014 when the Army changed its rules on natural hair.

Amid a backlash of criticism, the Army at that time banned large cornrows, locks and twists, as well as hair that could not be “neatly” pulled back into a bun. Afro hairstyles had also been banned in an effort to “maintain uniformity within a military population.”

Lateef Mangum Photo Selected for Dorothy Height Stamp

A photo by Lateef Mangum was chosen for the new Dorothy Height stamp as part of the USPS Forever Series. (Courtesy photo)

A photo of the late civil rights leader Dorothy Height, shot by District photographer Lateef Mangum, has now become part of America’s history.

The photograph joined a growing number of “Forever” stamps being issued by the United States Postal Service as the post office honors Black History Month with its Black Heritage U.S. postage stamps series.

“[The Postal Service] called me and asked me to submit pictures of Dorothy Height who I had photographed many times before and with whom I had even taken a picture,” said Mangum, who has served for more than 20 years as the personal photographer for several District mayors, including Adrian Fenty, Marion Barry and Muriel Bowser.

“I knew of her history and how dedicated she was to the civil rights movement, so I submitted a picture that I took when she was 97, and what’s amazing is that she looked so great,” Mangum said.

The hardest part of the journey for the D.C.-based photographer: silence. The Postal Service mandated that Mangum keep quiet for about a year until last November when he first saw the finished product.

Howard U. Celebrates 150-Year Legacy

On March 2, 1867, President Andrew Jackson signed into law a bill granting Howard University a charter, creating educational opportunities for those, primarily African Americans, who would not have access to it otherwise.

The university’s first motto and seal read, “Equal rights and knowledge for all,” and throughout its history, Howard University graduates have represented an assortment of races and ethnic backgrounds and both genders. Several females numbered among its first co-eds.

“This bore witness to the true essence of Howard University and its primary mission to educate those who otherwise would not have access to higher education,” said university President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a statement.

‘Village’ Unites for Memorable WI Heritage Tour

Washington Informer Charities hosted its 7th annual African American Heritage Tour “Exploring our Roots” on Sunday, Feb. 25. Over 200 guests visited the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. /Photo by Lateef Mangum

Each year during the month of February, The Washington Informer, under the auspices of its nonprofit arm, Washington Informer Charities, sponsors its Heritage Tour — exposing the community to educational, informative venues dedicated to the rich, powerful annals and contributions of African Americans — past and present.

That commitment continued this year on Sunday, Feb. 25 as just under 200 WI supporters, men, women and children of all ages, along with corporate sponsors and WI staff visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, adding to the already over one million people who have entered its doors since the official opening last fall.

Eager to see the treasures that lay behind the doors of the museum, participants gathered at the Boys and Girls Club at THEARC in Southeast for a brief program including words of welcome from WI staff and corporate sponsors of the tour.

“Our history often gets lost and this is a great opportunity to remind everyone about our contributions,” WI Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes said.


Black Press Celebrates 190 Years

The oldest Black business industry in America began 190 years ago. On March 16, 1827, the first edition of the Freedom’s Journal was published, thrusting African-Americans into the bustling publishing business.

At the time, Blacks in America weren’t even considered citizens, most were slaves and forbidden to read or write. However, John Russwurm and Reverend Samuel Cornish rose up bravely declaring that, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the historic Chicago Crusader newspaper which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015, said that when Russwurm and Cornish established the Black Press by publishing the Freedom’s Journal, they wanted to provide a voice for Black people. The Black Press became one of the only means of communication between Black people.

“Black men and women were vilified in the New York press in the 1800s,” said Leavell. “Some White newspaper publishers sought to defend the dignity, honor and character of Black people, however, Russwurm and Cornish said they, ‘wish to plead our own cause.’”

Without the Black Press, genuine stories of African Americans would go untold, said Robert W. Bogle, the publisher of the The Philadelphia Tribune. Bogle said that only Black people can tell their stories accurately.

“We are as relevant today as we were when the Freedom’s Journal said they wanted to tell our story in our words,” Bogle said.

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, said she studied the history of the Black Press and used the 190-year milestone to reflect on the legacy of Black newspapers.

“[What I discovered] helps me understand how the Black Press played a vital role in fighting for human rights, abolishing slavery and outlawing lynching,” Rolark Barnes said. “The lesson for us, as publishers, is that we must remain important in our communities and continue to be the voice for victims and spotlight those who have achieved success.”

Girls Reign Supreme at Prince George’s County Spelling Bee

Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes congratulates the Prince George’s County 2017 Spelling Bee champion Kelly Han, a student at Buck Lodge Middle School. The spelling bee was held at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on March 17. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

After several contentious rounds, a quiet spelling powerhouse from Buck Lodge Middle School emerged Friday, March 17 as the winner of the Prince George’s County Spelling Bee.

The Washington Informer and Informer Charities hosted their second bee in the county at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in Hyattsville.

Kelly Han correctly spelled “gesundheit,” a German word used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed, to be crowned winner of the Prince George’s County Spelling Bee.

Han, an aspiring chemist, said she only took a few weeks to prepare.

“I started with my school’s bee and now the county bee and I’m looking forward to the national bee. I think it will be a good adventure,” Han said. “I’m happy about winning and taking it all in.”

Han meekly admitted she didn’t know she would receive prizes but that she would share them with her family. The winner’s spoils included a trophy from Champion Awards, Trophies and Goods, $500 check from Educational Systems Federal Credit Union along with a gift basket, four roundtrip tickets from Southwest Airlines to go anywhere they fly and a Washington Informer gift bag including a Giant grocery gift card.

On Easter Sunday, April 16, Han was honored at home plate by the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park before heading to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May at the Gaylord National Resort in Maryland.

Brazile, Henderson, Lewis Honored at NNPA’s Torch Awards

Officers for the National Newspaper Publishers Association present Roy Lewis (second from left) with a Torch Award for his outstanding achievement during Black Press Week at the Dupont Circle Hotel in northwest D.C. on March 23. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) on Thursday, March 23 presented esteemed individuals in the Black community with awards for outstanding work in their respective fields.

In celebration of the 190th year of the Black Press, the NNPA held its annual Torch Awards at the DuPont Circle Hotel in Northwest to honor standout African Americans in their respective fields, including Donna Brazile, Wade Henderson and Roy Lewis.

“On behalf of General Motors, we are proud to be a partner with the NNPA for over 20 years and are excited to celebrate 190 years of the Black Press,” said Cherie Wilson, General Motors’ director of federal and administrative affairs. “I want to first thank Dr. Ben Chavis, [Washington Informer publisher] Denise Rolark Barnes and members of the NNPA for their tireless efforts to ensure the voices of the Black community is heard through more than 200 African-American-owned community newspapers throughout the United States.”

Wilson had a special message for Brazile, who suddenly fell ill and was unable to make the ceremony.

“To Donna, especially since it’s Women’s History Month, thank you for what you represent to little Black girls everywhere,” Wilson said. “You helped inspire my interest in politics well over a decade ago.”

Brazile received the award for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Political Empowerment, Henderson for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Civil and Human Rights and Lewis for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Photography.

Chavis championed each of the award recipients including Lewis, a veteran Washington Informer photographer.

“He’s been all over the world — the Caribbean, Africa all over the United States,” Chavis said. “Roy Lewis has used the camera to document and tell our stories of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”


Opening Day for Nationals

The Washington Nationals opened the 2017 season in the District with a win April 3 against the Miami Marlins.

The team coasted to 95 victories and captured the National League East division title with nearly three weeks left in the season. However, they lost for a second straight year in the divisional series, this time to the Chicago Cubs.

The Nationals front office decided not to retain manager Dusty Baker and hired Dave Martinez, 53, who worked as a bench coach for the Cubs with no experience as a Major League manager.

The Nationals did receive some good news in the fall: staff ace Max Scherzer won the National League Cy Young award for best pitcher.

Patrick Ewing Back at Georgetown

Patrick Ewing (Courtesy of

Patrick Ewing, known as the “Hoya Destroya” during his playing days at Georgetown University in the early 1980s, returned to the school this season as its new basketball coach.

Ewing, 54, was hired April 3 after his alma mater fired his former coach’s son, John Thompson III, in March.

Ewing led the Hoyas to three national championship appearances and the school’s only NCAA championship in 1984. The NBA Hall of Famer ranks 13th all-time in points scored..

Ewing led the team to win its first nine games of the 2017-18 season. Big East Conference play for the Hoyas began Wednesday, Dec. 27 against the Butler Bulldogs.

Md. Session Ends in Annapolis

Maryland lawmakers ended the last day of the legislation session on April 10 with several bills approved, including a harsher provision on ethics and liquor control board legislation for Prince George’s County.

A major bill on medical marijuana didn’t appear on the House floor for a vote until five minutes before the session officially ended at midnight.

The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland plans to organize and present emergency legislation when Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in Annapolis on Jan. 10. Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore has said the House and Senate leaders plan to schedule a joint hearing Jan. 16. If the plan stalls and final paperwork isn’t on the governor’s desk to sign the legislation by the end of January, the Black caucus may not work with leadership at all.

Maxine Waters Calls Out Trump

Rep. Maxine Waters and other CBC members are looking for grounds to impeach President Trump. (Courtesy photo)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) became the first congressional official to publicly speak against President Donald Trump, telling a group at Busboy and Poets restaurant in Northwest on April 14 that “we’ve got stop his [behind].”

Her outspoken candor helped force a discussion on whether to seek articles of impeachment against Trump. Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert Mueller continues to investigate Trump on whether he colluded with Russian officials during last year’s presidential election.

Bill Cosby Breaks Silence

After more than two years of silence during a trial on sexual assault charges, legendary comedian Bill Cosby spoke to the Black Press.

Cosby revealed in April that he’s blind and missed performing stand-up routines before an audience. Cosby also discussed how he and Camille, his wife of more than 50 years, would
provide a generous salary to people who worked in his home and address them as “Mr., Miss or Mrs.” as a sign of respect.

Cosby’s daughter, Evin, talked about her dad and the case in a statement. The case
eventually resulted in a mistrial in June, though prosecutors plan to retry Cosby.


House Passes Repeal of Obamacare

The Republican-controlled Congress on May 4 passed a bill that sought to defang Obamacare by cutting nearly $1 trillion from Medicaid by converting it into a block grant program, which made it harder for impoverished seniors to access long-term care.

However, the Senate couldn’t pass a health bill after Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) walked onto the floor and gave a historic thumbs-down, one week after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also voted no.

President Donald Trump and the GOP continue to push efforts to try and repeal Obamacare, but it currently remains the law of the land. The last day of this year’s enrollment period was Dec. 15.

Thurgood Marshall’s Widow Talks of Husband’s Legacy

Cecilia Marshall (second from left), Justice Thurgood Marshall (right) and their two sons (Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage)

Cecilia Marshall, widow of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice, said
progress still hasn’t been made since the historic 1954 decision of Brown vs. Board of Education.

Thurgood Marshall challenged a law that forced Black children to attend all-black schools. The Supreme Court decision ruled separate education facilities are “inherently unequal.” Cecilia Marshall, 88, attended an event to honor her husband and announce an education initiative to ensure all children receive a quality education.

“My husband gave me and all of us a great life and his favorite slogan was something we’ve always lived by and I still live by today, especially when I think of the state of things in this country: never give up.”

Wizards Playoff Fever

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) drives pass Boston Celtics center Al Horford in the third quarter of the Wizards’ 121-102 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series at Verizon Center at D.C. on May 7. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)

The Washington Wizards’ last home game of the 2016-17 season was a memorable one, as John Wall drained a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics to force a decisive game on the road.

Unfortunately, the Wizards’ season ended days later, but Washington went undefeated in six postseason home games.

That success hasn’t quite carried over to the 2017-18 season, with the Wizards getting off to a roller-coaster start inside the newly rechristened Capital One Arena.

Fans can spend the last few days of 2017 at the arena to see the Wizards host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Dec. 29 and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, Dec. 31.

Slain Bowie State Student Remembered

Students at Bowie State University and the University of Maryland honored the late Lt. Richard Collins III, who was fatally stabbed at a bus stop on UM’s College Park campus on May 20.

Hundreds attended the funeral of Collins on May 26 at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro. A grand jury indicted Sean Urbanski, a white student at Maryland arrested, for a hate crime against Collins, an African-American.

The incident occurred three days before Collins was scheduled to graduate with a business degree from Bowie State.

The case, which is scheduled to go to trial next month, prompted officials at the University of Maryland to implement new initiatives, host discussions and change its procedure for reporting racial incidents on campus.

Ben Jealous Announces Candidacy

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous on May 31 became the second person to announce his candidacy for Maryland governor.

Jealous, 44, a longtime civil rights activist who became the youngest person to serve as NAACP president at age 35, is making his first foray into politics. He’s received more than a dozen endorsements so far, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who Jealous served as a surrogate for during Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign in the Democratic primary. The senator has visited Maryland twice to stump for Jealous.

He faces seven other people in the June 26 Democratic primary. Because of limited connection to the state political hierarchy, he’s released two progressive policy strategies this year on ways to combat opioids and institute universal health care statewide. He plans to release a plan soon on criminal justice reform.


Black Press Holds Annual Convention

From left: Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and CEO, pays tribute to Robert Bogle, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest Black-owned newspaper, along with Denise Rolark Barnes, Washington Informer publisher and NNPA chairperson, during a recent NNPA convention. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) held its annual convention at National Harbor to celebrate 190 years of publishing stories about the Black community.

The four-day event featured a town hall for Black parents focused on education; a movie screening and discussion of “Wilmington Ten: Pardons of Innocence”; the honoring of Robert Bogle, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest black-owned newspaper; and an awards gala that honored Martin Luther King III.

One of the convention hosts was Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer newspaper in Southeast. NNPA also organizes a national fellowship program for aspiring journalists called “Discover the Unexpected.” Next year’s convention will take place in Norfolk, Virginia.

SafeTrack Ends

Metro’s maintenance project known as SafeTrack finally ended June 25, condensing three years worth of work to repair the Metrorail system into one year.

The beleaguered transit agency faced heavy criticism from riders and local, state and federal officials on how it created an inconvenience in longer waits for trains. Meanwhile, the agency’s general manager presented a proposed $3.1 billion fiscal year 2019 budget that request $165 million from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

By Jan. 8, riders will no longer be allowed to carry a negative balance on a SmartTrip card for Metrorail and Metrobus. Riders with the card, which was established in 1999, must have cash or coins to add any value to exit machines on the rail system. The farebox will buzz for customers riding a Metrobus if insufficient funds are on the card. The agency said the loss in revenue has cost about $25 million.

Baker Announces Run for Governor

At the first stop on the campaign trail, Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Rushern Baker speaks to publishers attending the National Newspaper Publishers Association 2017 annual convention at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on June 21. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III on June 21 used a video message to declare himself a candidate in the Maryland gubernatorial election.

Baker, 59, will run against at least seven other challengers in next year’s Democratic primary election to defeat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Baker has received several endorsements, including from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.


Nation’s Football Classic Canceled

For the past six years, the football teams of historically black colleges and universities faced off in the annual AT&T Nation’s Football Classic at the historic RFK Stadium in Southeast. But this year, the fledgling fall tradition did not take place.
Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District and manager of the grounds that house RFK Stadium, announced late last month the discontinuation of the game due to “a shift in corporate priorities.”

Initiated in 2011 in partnership with title sponsorship from AT&T and partnership with Pepsi, the game specifically featured HBCU football teams in an effort to honor the heritage of the participating institutions, drawing crowds of thousands each year.

“It was a great recognition to the academic program in the schools, but also to recognized HBCUs,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who received bachelor’s and law degrees from Howard in 1982 and 1986, respectively. “I can’t believe it. It is an event for all us to get together besides homecoming.”

D.C. Steps Up Efforts to Fight Opioid Epidemic

On an average day nationwide, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed, 3,900 people initiate non-medical use of prescription opioids, 2,580 people initiate heroin use and 278 people die from an opioid-related overdose, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The crisis has garnered responses from federal and local governments alike.

Mayor Muriel Bowser highlighted D.C.’s efforts to combat its opioid epidemic, which largely affects middle-aged African-American males, during a July 14 press conference at the Southeast Family and Medical Counseling Services clinic.

“We must work together to curb this growing epidemic and treat it like the public health issue that it is,” Bowser said. “It’s a serious issue and we have a serious plan to combat it.”

America’s Black Clergy Confronts Congress, Trump

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, joins a host of national clergy July 18 on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Barber spoke on the failure of the current Republican-led Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, criticized efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and called upon clergy to send a message to elected officials. (E Watson/EDI)

Dozens of faith leaders from across the country, all members of the centuries-old collective commonly referred to as the “Black Church” converged on Capitol Hill on July 18, sending a message of discontent and a prophetic word opposing injustice to President Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress on behalf of the hundreds of millions of African-Americans who comprise the laity of America’s stronghold of the Black faithful.

Joined by just under 150 supporters including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) who served as the spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus, the minsters held a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building to denounce both the “immoral budget” proposed by the Trump administration and the “equally unjust health care bill” that was ultimately rejected by Congress.


Protesters Flood D.C. Streets, Angered by Trump’s ‘Silence’

Activist Eugene Puryear (right) leads protesters past Trump Hotel to the confederate statue of Albert Pike near Metropolitan Police Department headquarters after a prayer vigil at Lafayette Park in northwest D.C. on Aug. 13. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

On an idyllic summer afternoon in the District on Sunday, Aug. 13, thousands took to the streets in the shadows of the White House to voice their concerns after armed white supremacists in Charlottesville took prejudice and violence to new heights just one day earlier — resulting in dozens of injuries and even death in a daylong melee captured on video that confirms the tenuous state of race relations in today’s Donald Trump-led America.

One local participant who also works as an organizer with the Stop Police Terror Project DC, said efforts to move the country backward, including the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and like-minded groups who support Nazi ideologies, will continue to be met with strident opposition.

“There’s been a movement growing in America for several years, especially since the murder of Mike Brown — a movement against white supremacy, racism and bigotry,” said Eugene Puryear, who added that incidents in Charlottesville have exposed those hell-bent on making the country even more divided.

DCPS, Teacher’s Union Finally Agree on Contract

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (right), Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson (left) and Washington Teachers Union President Elizabeth Davis announce a tentative agreement for a new contract at Bunker Hill Elementary School in Northeast on Aug. 14. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The Washington Teachers Union reached an agreement with the city on a new contract that significantly increases compensation for the thousands of teachers in the D.C. Public Schools system, ending a yearslong standoff.

After a long and testy battle — the union had operated without a contract since 2012 — Mayor Muriel Bowser, schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson and union President Elizabeth Davis announced Aug. 14 a tentative deal for a new contract that will increase wages by nine percent over the next two years for city teachers.

“Since 2007, the District of Columbia has blazed a trail to better schools — investing more resources in our classrooms, adding exciting new programs for our students at all levels, and pouring billions of dollars into our school buildings,” Bowser said. “Yet, for too long, our teachers have not been shown the appreciation nor presented the compensation they deserve.”

Sharpton, Clergy Push for Social Activism, Blast Trump Presidency

Thousands of people, including a cadre of faith leaders from the Reconciled Church Movement (RCM) who represent various ethnic backgrounds, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and members of his nonprofit National Action Network (NAN) in the District on Aug. 28, the 54th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington.

Their collective mission was to discuss the Church’s role in healing the nation’s racial divide and to speak out against the president’s response to recent events in Charlottesville, a spokesman said.

Sharpton said the turnout of about 3,000 people who participated in NAN’s Ministers March for Justice marked one of the largest-ever interfaith gatherings in protest of racism in America.

“[Just] as [King] marched 54 years ago, we are still marching for voting rights, health care, criminal justice reform and economic justice,” said Sharpton, who walked the two-mile stretch from the MLK Memorial to the Justice Department, the son of Dr. King, Martin Luther King III, close to his side.

Trump Blasted for Response to Hurricane Harvey

Residents of Houston walk along a major artery of the city as the waters from Tropical Storm Harvey continue to batter portions of the Gulf Coast region. (Courtesy photo)

The wrath of Hurricane Harvey devastated the the Gulf Coast region in late August, sparking mass evacuations as rainfall numbers broke national records.

President Donald Trump, who visited the Corpus Christi, Texas, area in the storm’s aftermath, applauded the efforts of first responders in Texas and promised the recovery efforts would be swift and serve as a subsequent model for the world. He closed with comments about the impressive size of the crowd that turned out to hear him.

However, critics lambasted him for saying nothing to the millions of victims who remain homeless, lost or dead.


Trump Rescinds DACA Program, Ends Protection for Young Immigrants

Demonstrators protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA at White House on Sept 5. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

The Trump administration has opted to end protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5.

Although Trump had been urged by hundreds of business, religious and political leaders to support the program, Sessions confirmed that the administration had decided to rescind the program.

“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Sessions said during a press briefing. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”

Trump had been for months mulling a decision regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era initiative that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. His decision gave Congress six months to find a solution.

Jim Vance Fondly Remembered

Jim Vance (Courtesy of WRC-TV)

The late Jim Vance has been widely described as charismatic, smooth and professional among the millions of viewers who watched the legendary NBC4 anchor for nearly five decades.

And the beat continued as several of his closest colleagues and longtime friends shared stories about Vance at a Sept. 12 memorial celebration inside the Washington National Cathedral in Northwest.

Vance’s longtime anchor partner and friend Doreen Gentzler said Vance once even attempted to distract meteorologist Bob Ryan as he presented the weather forecast when Vance pulled down his pants and mooned him in the studio.

Laughs cascaded throughout the cathedral after one college friend and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. brother, Kenneth Hamilton of Philadelphia, recalled when Hamilton’s mother greeted Vance. He also told the hundreds in attendance Vance wasn’t found of his nickname, “Brother Recline” — a moniker he received in reference to his cool, relaxed persona.

Bowser to Seek Second Term

Muriel E. Bowser spoke to the citizens of D.C. on Sept. 22 during the highly popular radio program “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” and cast all doubts aside saying she will run for a second term for the office of mayor of the District of Columbia.

Later that day she spoke with The Washington Informer for an exclusive interview where she assessed her accomplishments garnered during her first term in office and outlined some of the plans she has for the next four years should voters lean in her favor.

If victorious, Bowser, 45, will become only the third two-term mayor in District history, following Marion Barry and Anthony A. Williams, since 1975 when D.C. moved to electing both its mayor and city council members based on the outcome of the popular vote.

In 2014, Bowser became the second woman to be elected D.C. mayor after Sharon Pratt Kelly.

Little Rock Nine Remembered

The National Museum of African American History and Culture closed out the celebration of its one-year anniversary with surviving members of the Little Rock Nine, who courageously integrated a high school 60 years ago despite harassment and threats of violence.

The “Reflections of the Little Rock Nine” took place on Sept. 26, one day after the 60th anniversary, where a group of Black teenagers broke the color wall at a hostile, all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

“It’s wonderful that we end this celebration of the first-year anniversary of the museum with this program because one of the most important goals of the museum is to help America remember,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum. “We remember not out of nostalgia, but to provide our audiences with useful tools and contextualize current issues.

“The integration of Central High School was an event that transfixed and transformed the nation,” he said.

March for Black Women Takes Over D.C. Streets

Supporters of the Blueprint for Black Women met at Seward Square and Black Women for Racial Justice met at Lincoln Park in Southeast where they converged in a March for Black Women, walking to the Justice Department and
ending on the National Mall on Sept. 30. The march was held 20 years after the Million Women March to bring attention to the injustices Black women face. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Black women led two marches in D.C. and more than a dozen sister rallies and marches across the country railing against the inequalities Black people — particularly women — face.

The March for Black Women and the March for Racial Justice drew a crowd of thousands to march in the streets of D.C. on Sept. 30. Though both marches held separate rallies in the morning, they joined each other in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill before marching to the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters and then to the National Mall under the directive: “Let Black women lead!”

Though racism and sexism are typically seen as separate issues, event organizers said the combination of the two marches highlighted the intersectional bias women of color often face.

“[Black women] live at the intersections,” said Trina Greene Brown, 33, who participated in the event. “Our gender and race are not separable.”

Brown traveled from Los Angeles to join the march because she believes Black women are not recognized for the work they do in many of the movements they participate in including the women’s rights movement and movements for racial justice.


Black Icons Shun the Black Press

Time and again, modern African-American icons, either directly or through spokespeople, have declined an interview or even comment to Black-owned newspapers, who only seek such access when there’s news to be told, not for trivial and fanatic purposes — these reporters are too busy.

When Cuba Gooding Jr. was making headlines last year, starring in a popular FX miniseries about O.J. Simpson, famed Washington Informer photographer Roy Lewis spotted the star at a D.C. hotel. When he asked Gooding if it’s OK to snap a photo for the Black Press, Gooding said no.

When a Black Press reporter approached Gooding about comment on portraying Simpson, the star remarked how fun the job was but added that he didn’t want to be quoted.

“Those folks are about selling and personally profiting from Black cool, from Black genius, from selling their access to Black people, from selling themselves,” said Rinaldo Walcott, an associate professor and director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.

Colin Kaepernick Prepares for Battle Against NFL

Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the league has colluded against hiring him. (Courtesy photo)

In the summer of 2016, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, respectively. Their deaths were videotaped, and the footage went viral.

People mourned. People raged. People protested.

And starting with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL players — in a historically unprecedented fashion — joined this fight.

They took a knee or sat or raised a fist during the playing of the national anthem precisely to make people — fans, sponsors, media, and team owners — uncomfortable and to raise awareness.

Kaepernick filed a grievance on Oct. 15 that alleges NFL teams colluded to keep him unemployed. It’s a serious charge that could cost the league untold millions of dollars if a judge agrees.

Bowser, D.C. Officials Make Pitch for Amazon

The Anacostia Riverfront, NoMa-Union Station, Capitol Hill East and the Shaw-Howard University are the four areas District officials have proposed as potential sites of a new Amazon headquarters.

Washington is among several big cities — including New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Austin, Texas — seeking to land the e-commerce and cloud computing company, which seeks to build a second headquarters to go along with its Seattle location.

Bidding closed Oct. 19 and Amazon officials are expected to make a decision early next year and begin occupying space by late 2019. The winning city for the estimated $5 billion project will not only land the distinction of the having the second headquarters for Amazon, but forecasters said it should be a major economic boost.

Amazon promises to create 50,000 new jobs paying on average more than $100,000 annually.

Rep. Wilson Disputes Trump Take on Condolence Call

Donald Trump once again became embroiled in a political feud — this time with Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) who criticized the president’s treatment of and words addressed to military widow Myeshia Johnson.

Johnson’s husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, was one of four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4 under circumstances that military officials have yet to fully explain.

Wilson, 74, who represents a district in the Miami area, has been a mentor of Sgt. Johnson, who died at the age of 25, since his youth and has also been a longtime friend and supporter of his family. She was riding in a limousine with Johnson’s widow when Trump called to express his sympathies.


Fairfax Wins in Democratic Sweep of Virginia

Courtesy of Justin Fairfax via Twitter

He grew up along North Capitol and Evarts in northwest D.C., and now Justin Fairfax will be the lieutenant governor of Virginia.

The hardworking Democrat defeated Republican Jill Vogel in the hotly contested race for the second-highest office in Old Dominion.

Fairfax’s Nov. 7 win capped a banner night for his party as Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie to win the governor’s mansion and Mark Herring beat GOP candidate John Adams in the race for attorney general.

The race, in many ways, put President Donald Trump against his predecessor Barack Obama in the first showdown since Trump won the presidency.

While Obama campaigned for the Democratic ticket in Virginia, Trump pressed hard for state Republicans, particularly Gillespie, who adopted Trump’s race-baiting tactics.

Many experts and pundits said the elections offered the nation a window into how voters viewed Trump’s job performance and how effectively Democrats have corrected the problems that plagued the party in 2016 and mobilized a base desperate for victories.

CBC Chair Slams Sessions for Lack of Black Hires

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was grilled Nov. 14 by the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Russians’ role in interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But some the toughest questions weren’t exactly about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

They were about Sessions’ history of alleged racism and the current administration’s lack of diversity, specifically the lack of Black staff and nominees.

When Sessions suggested that the Department of Justice does focus on diversity and inclusion, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, appeared bemused.

“How is it that the Justice Department is fostering diversity when 91 percent of its judicial nominees have been white men?” Richmond asked Sessions during a question-and-answer portion of the attorney general’s hearing before the House committee on Capitol Hill.

“I’m not aware of the numbers,” Sessions retorted.

Farrakhan Pulls No Punches in Address to Trump

Louis Farrakhan (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Nation of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, 84, delivered his first speech to Donald Trump and the country’s government since the business mogul-turned-politician took over as president of the U.S.

The message, delivered at the Watergate Hotel in Northwest, included Farrakhan’s take on a plethora of political and social issues as well as several questions aimed at the country’s leaders as they relate to the current administration’s pending and current strategies both at home and abroad.

His message also shared his concerns about the future of America and how, under Trump, it will unfold on the global stage.

Farrakhan also weighed in on the domestic challenges that continue to face the nation.

The provocative head of the Muslim religious group, a position to which he was appointed by the founder and former leader of the Nation, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, spoke to an audience of well over 500 at the historic Watergate Hotel in Northwest on Nov. 16.

And while he has faced significant health problems over the past few years, the Minister appeared refreshed, revived and ready to handle the task at hand, speaking for well over two hours without interruption.

Unions Endorse Donna Edwards Again

Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards greets members of the various unions that endorsed her bid for Prince George’s County executive at the UFCW Local 400 headquarters in Landover on Nov. 30. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Four union groups that supported Donna Edwards when she walked the halls of Congress stand by her again in her bid for Prince George’s County executive.

The unions officially endorsed her Nov. 30 at the UFCW Local 400 headquarters in Landover.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union also supported Edwards when she ran for Senate against Chris Van Hollen in last year’s Democratic primary.

“We need to make sure we endorse candidates who share values that our members see themselves in that candidate and understands the struggles of our members,” said Dyana Forester, political and community affairs director for Local 400. “When Donna made the decision about what she was going to do, we decided that we need to be with her.”

Edwards’ other union endorsements are UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO (Montgomery County Government Employees Organization) of Gaithersburg, Unite Here Local 25 of Northwest and LiUNA! (Laborers’ International Union of North America) of Reston, Virginia.


Sixth Woman Joins HU Sexual Assault Suit

A sixth woman has joined a federal lawsuit accusing Howard University of mismanagement in the investigation of sexual assault allegations.

Her allegations are detailed in the lawsuit, which includes the cases of five other women. In May, those five women sued Howard, accusing the university of a “discriminatory and retaliatory response to multiple complaints of sexual assault and harassment.”

The lawsuit alleges that five former or current students were raped or sexually assaulted on campus between 2014 and 2016 by fellow students and university employees, and that the school did little or nothing to help them.

“Howard is deliberately indifferent to students’ Title IX rights,” the suit said, referring to a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

John Conyers Steps Down From Congress

**FILE** John Conyers (Courtesy photo) Credit: Courtesy photo

In the face of mounting allegations of sexual harassment, the longest-serving member of Congress, John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), abruptly resigned Dec. 5, ending a career that spanned 52 years.

Conyers, 88, who represented the Detroit area, relented to growing pressure from Democratic leaders and stepped aside as an increasing number of female former aides accused him of mistreatment and undesired advances. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The revered politician, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, announced his retirement from a hospital in Detroit where he was treated for stress.

He has endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him. Another Conyers family member, a nephew, has already declared his intention to run for the seat, setting up a potential interfamily showdown.

Speaking on the harassment allegations, Conyers said his legacy “can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through.”

“This too shall pass,” he shared during a local radio station interview on the day of his resignation. “My legacy will continue through my children.”

Jones Stuns Moore in Crucial Alabama Senate Race

Doug Jones won a closely-contested Senate race in Alabama on Dec. 12. (Courtesy photo)

In a tightly-contested, wire-to-wire race in the Alabama special election for Senate on Dec. 12, Democrat Doug Jones defeated controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore.

Jones won the battle to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions by a razor-thin margin, with only about 20,000 votes separating him and Moore.

Voters found themselves forced to choose between a Republican who’s perceived as a racist and accused of child abuse or a Democrat who has earned a reputation for prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The contest also developed as a test of where the Deep South stands today and whether President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and endorsement could still win over voters. Trump campaigned hard for Moore, recording robocalls for the former judge and convincing the Republican Party to financially back him.

Predictably, the president has distanced himself from Moore since his defeat, taking to social media to say he should never have supported him.

Moore, meanwhile, still has refused to concede.

“Realizing when the vote is this close, it’s not over,” he said shortly after the race was called for Jones. “And we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision. It’s not over and it’s going to take some time.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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