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A Tribute to a Living Legend: Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In 1965, Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led what was planned as a peaceful 54-mile march through Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. The march, a protest of the discriminatory practices and Jim Crow laws that prevented African Americans from voting, would be remembered in history as “Bloody Sunday,” one of the most dramatic and violent incidents of the American Civil Rights Movement.

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John Lewis, who represents Georgia's 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, urges people to be engaged in the ongoing fight for social justice. U.S. Rep. John Lewis' Call to Resist: "The Fight Is Not Over" (Photo: Oprah’s Master Class | OWN / YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Millions adore Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) for his selfless and lifelong dedication to civil and equal rights.

Some idolize Lewis like a rock star, while most revere him as an icon.

It is why presidents, politicians, members of Congress, and everyday people have taken time this week to pay tribute to the 79-year-old, 17-term congressman, who announced that he’s battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“If there’s one thing I love about Rep. John Lewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight,” former President Barack Obama wrote on his official Twitter account.

“I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend,” Obama stated.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and former Tallahassee, Fla., Mayor Andrew Gillum, counted among the masses to send their prayers and heartfelt support to Lewis via social media.

“John Lewis is a giant – an icon of the civil rights movement, a leader in Congress and one of the kindest people I know,” Rep. Omar tweeted. “I’m praying for a speedy and full recovery. We need you making good trouble in the halls of Congress,” she wrote.

Lewis is an “American hero and one of the bravest people I know,” Gillum stated. “It was the honor of my life to get into good trouble with him on the campaign trail.”

Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the group is praying that Lewis remains strong, vigilant, and relentless in his battle.

“There is no civil rights warrior more dedicated to the cause than John Lewis,” Steele stated. “I know he will wage this battle head-on.”

Members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association of black-owned newspapers across the country, also offered their support for Lewis.

“Rep. John Lewis is a profound leader, humanitarian and civil rights icon who has made his mark on American history and has fought for the rights of all people, especially African Americans in this country,” stated NNPA Chair and Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards.

“I am extremely confident and prayerful that Rep. Lewis will fight this battle of being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the same way he has fought and been an example of strength for others his entire life. Praying for a speedy recovery,” Richards stated.

NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., called Lewis a fearless voice and advocate for freedom, justice, and equality both in the halls of the U.S. Congress and in the streets of America.

“John Lewis epitomizes what it means to be a courageous freedom fighter for more than six decades in America and throughout the world,” Chavis stated.

“The Black Press of America salutes the tireless sacrifices and triumphant ideals that the Honorable John Lewis represents today as we go into 2020,” he added.

“The re-enactment of the full Voting Rights Act should be named The John Lewis 2020 Voting Act that he has worked so diligently to see fulfilled for Black Americans and all others who cry out for equality,” Chavis concluded.

Lewis said he’s not looking to give up his work.

“I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community,” Lewis wrote in a statement.

“We still have many bridges to cross,” he stated.

Born in Troy, Alabama, on February 21, 1940, Lewis and his family were poverty-stricken, but it didn’t stop him from rising among the ranks of America’s most prominent leaders.

He became involved in the Civil Rights Movement while still a student at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn., where he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Just shy of his 20th birthday in 1960, Lewis was the man behind the successful sit-in movement at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. In 1961, he volunteered to become a member of the Freedom Riders and put his life on the line several times while fighting for equality.

As chairman of the SNCC, a position he served from 1963 to 1965, Lewis earned recognition as one of the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights Movement along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins.

The group met with President John F. Kennedy to discuss the planning of the “March on Washington.”

In 1963, at just 23, Lewis served as a keynote speaker during the march.

In 1964, he helped coordinate and organized the successful “Mississippi Freedom Summer.”

In 1965, Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led what was planned as a peaceful 54-mile march through Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. The march, a protest of the discriminatory practices and Jim Crow laws that prevented African Americans from voting, would be remembered in history as “Bloody Sunday,” one of the most dramatic and violent incidents of the American Civil Rights Movement.

The publicity surrounding “Bloody Sunday” and the subsequent march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led President Lyndon Johnson to push for the Voting Rights Act, passed by Congress on August 6, 1965, according to Lewis’ biography on The HistoryMakers.

Lewis was elected to his first governmental office in 1981, serving as an Atlanta City Council member until 1986. He was then elected to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

“John Lewis has spent his life bravely out front and center, challenging racism, entrenched systems and evil policies that support power and privilege for some as it oppresses others,” stated NNPA Treasurer and New Journal & Guide Publisher Brenda Andrews.

“He has helped change the laws and heart of the Jim Crow nation into which he was born, making us all a better people. My prayers for his recovery are with him as he confronts this very personal battle,” Andrews stated.

Bobby Henry, the publisher of the Westside Gazette Newspaper in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., recalled his first meeting with Lewis, which occurred more than 20 years ago.

“I met him with [former Florida Democratic] Congressman Alcee Hastings, and Rep. Lewis presented me with his autographed book, ‘Walking with the Wind,'” Henry recalled.

“I asked him about his preaching to his chickens, which he wrote about in his book, and he responded with laughter and said, ‘they were the only ones who would sit still and listen to me.’ I would imagine that Congressman Lewis would approach his illness as he did in a story from his childhood where he and his family were home during a violent windstorm,” Henry stated.

“The winds were pulling the house up from the ground, and they marched from one corner of the house to the other to hold the house down to keep it from being blown away. With the same courage, I’m sure Rep. Lewis will approach his situation.”

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Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision. “We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to more than 9 years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.

Her lawyers called the verdict a disappointment and vowed to appeal.

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.

Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 American dollars on the basketball star.

Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has been detained since then.

Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden-Harris administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

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Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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NNPA Newswire

NEW YORK – The Southern Prisons Coalition, a group of civil and human rights organizations, submitted a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the devastating consequences of incarceration on Black people throughout the southern United States.

With the long-term goal of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, including the carceral system, the report describes the widespread, disparate harms resulting from the arrests, harsh prison sentences, and incarceration on Black communities.

The report also cites the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, prison labor, the school to prison pipeline, and incarceration of parents on Black families.

On August 8, 2022, the UN will review the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the first time since 2014.

Among the ongoing stark racial disparities throughout prisons in the southern United States, Black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, where Black communities comprise 38% of the total population, Black individuals account for as much as 67% of the total incarcerated population.

While incarcerated, Black people are more than eight times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, and they are 10 times more likely to be held there for exceedingly long periods of time.

By submitting the report to the United Nations, the Southern Prisons Coalition hopes to solicit concrete recommendations from the UN Committee as well as commitments from the United States delegation about their plans to address systemic issues in the United States prison system, particularly in the South.

According to the report, several states in the United States have also failed to meet several of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of incarcerated people, including:

  • Work should help to prepare incarcerated people for their release from prison, including life and job skills;
  • Safety measures and labor protections for incarcerated workers should be the same as those that cover workers who are not incarcerated;
  • Incarcerated workers should receive equitable pay, be able to send money home to their families, and have a portion of their wages set aside to be given to them upon release.

“The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We hope the Committee will help to shine a light on these very dark truths and prompt the U.S. to take its obligation to make significant improvements more seriously.”

“The abuses of forced labor are inextricably tied to racial discrimination in our nation,” said Jamila Johnson, Deputy Director at the Promise of Justice Initiative.

“In Louisiana, for instance, people are still sent into the fields to labor by hand in dangerously high heat indexes, for little to no compensation, and with brutal enforcement reminiscent of slavery and the era of ‘convict leasing’.”

“This report reveals the suffering of Black people in southern U.S. prisons, whose stories of marginalization and discrimination echo the racial subjugation of slavery and convict leasing during our country’s most shameful past,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

“Despite widespread knowledge of the longstanding racial inequalities in the criminal legal and carceral systems, the United States continues to allow egregious human rights violations to persist for Black incarcerated people in violation of international law. This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go.”

Read the full report here.

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Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

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By Angelina Liu, Entertainment Editor of The Trendsetter / Texas Metro News

Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

1. Chocolate Secrets

At Chocolate Secrets, located at 3926 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, you can celebrate your birthday by getting one free piece of candy under their candy cases.

2. WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”

Head to WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”, located at 684 W Pioneer Pkwy Suite 100, Grand Prairie, Texas 75051, to claim a free small personal daiquiri on your birthday. Quench your thirst with signature flavors such as “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Bahama Mama.”

3. Sephora

Sign up for a free, Beauty Insider account and receive your choice of 250 bonus points, Laura Mercier, Amika or Tatcha sets on your birthday. The choice of powders, lipsticks and skincare is bound to make you look fabulous for your special day.

4. Starbucks

Need a quick pick-me-up on your birthday? Starbucks has it covered! Join the Starbucks Rewards Program seven days prior to your birthday and make one purchase. Starbucks will then email you a coupon for a free food or beverage item two days before your birthday. The birthday reward qualifies for anything on the menu, including any size handcrafted drink or food item.

5. Jersey Mike’s

In the mood for a sub? Head over to Jersey Mike’s and receive a free sub and drink. Make sure to sign up for the Jersey Mike’s Subs Email Club prior to your birthday to receive this reward. Nothing tastes quite like melted cheese and meat in between a toasted baguette, along with an icy cold drink.

6. The Cheesecake Factory

Celebrating with friends? Tell your server it’s your birthday and receive a free treat as well as a song. It may be mildly embarrassing, but hey, it’s free!

7. Culver’s

Need something cold and sweet to beat the Texas heat? Head to Culver’s for a free sundae when you sign up for their rewards program. The sweet creaminess will surely not disappoint.

8. IHOP

Want to indulge in a sweet breakfast before birthday festivities? Join the International Bank of Pancakes rewards program to receive a free stack of pancakes on your birthday. Pair your pancakes with a choice of chocolate chips, syrup, fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream.

9. McDonald’s

Need a snack before embarking on your next birthday adventure? Download the McDonald’s app and join MyMcDonald’s Rewards to receive free large fries. Mmm, the taste and smell of fresh, perfectly salted french fries.

10. Smoothie King

Want to celebrate your birthday with a healthier option? Enjoy a birthday smoothie at Smoothie King. Download the Smoothie King app to receive this offer.

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