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Black Columnist Target of Apparent “Swatting” Hoax

THE AFRO — A prominent national Black newspaper columnist was victim of an apparent hoax following a 911 call of a possible murder, which prompted a scene outside his home with law enforcement in Bowie last weekend. Leonard Pitts Jr., a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and award-winning author whose columns appear in about 250 newspapers nationwide, was cuffed, questioned and eventually released after police officers figured out it was fake news. Pitts is a featured columnist for the Miami Herald and was reportedly asleep with his family around 5 a.m. when City of Bowie Police were dispatched to the scene.

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By Mark F. Gray

A prominent national Black newspaper columnist was victim of an apparent hoax following a 911 call of a possible murder, which prompted a scene outside his home with law enforcement in Bowie last weekend.

Leonard Pitts Jr., a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and award-winning author whose columns appear in about 250 newspapers nationwide, was cuffed, questioned and eventually released after police officers figured out it was fake news. Pitts is a featured columnist for the Miami Herald and was reportedly asleep with his family around 5 a.m. when City of Bowie Police were dispatched to the scene.

“It was an interesting way to start the morning,” Pitts told the Herald. “It felt surreal, like I was in a movie.”

While the incident remains under investigation in the Prince George’s County suburb, initial reports say that Pitts was in the home with his wife, adult daughter, and three year old granddaughter when he responded to the second of two calls to his cell phone. Pitts said he answered after the caller ID read “City of Bowie, MD” and was told that police had received a call that someone was killing his wife inside. He was told to stay on the phone and go outside and followed those orders.

Pitts claims that he was told via loudspeaker to put the phone on the ground and to raise his hands up and walk toward a shining spotlight that was pointing at him. He was then told to drop to his knees and put his hands behind his back.

After capitulating to the officers’ orders Pitts was taken behind a police car where he was questioned.  His family was ultimately awakened and summoned to go outside though never handcuffed while a group of officers searched the home. The officers set up a perimeter around the house and treated it as a barricaded-suspect situation. Pitts credited remaining calm and following police orders to diffuse what could’ve become a tragedy.

“I knew that if I remained calm, it would be fine because there was nothing to hide,” Pitts said.

Bowie police chief John Nesky was also called to the scene during the incident that unfolded within 30 minutes.  He confirmed to the Miami newspaper that an unsolicited call claimed an armed suspect was in the home and officers have to “assume the information is valid until we prove otherwise.”

“We are still investigating what happened, but we do know there was false information given,” Nesky told the Herald.

The incident follows a pattern a growing national trend known as “swatting.”  Swatting involves creating similar types of hoaxes created by someone making a false report in order to provoke a SWAT team response from a law enforcement agency. Swatting is often used to target celebrities and other prominent people. Nesky said he couldn’t confirm that theory, but did confirm that a call came in saying someone was armed and in the home.

“We were able to determine pretty quickly that there was nothing going on,” Nesky said. “It’s a waste of resources for the police department.  It’s unneeded stress for the family and the officers and there is always the potential for something to go wrong.”

The Herald’s editorial page editor Nancy Ancrum, called the incident “jarring, disturbing and alarming.”

“As always I and the Herald are concerned about Leonard’s safety and the safety of all of our writers,” Ancrum said. “I am glad the Bowie police department is continuing to investigate this event.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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NAACP Launches #WeAreDoneDying Campaign, Empowering Black and Brown Communities to Take Action Against Senseless Killings of African Americans

THE AFRO — The campaign is a Call-to-Action and highlights the NAACP’s policy interests and supported legislation for African Americans and people of color, a large demographic that is often left out of recovery effort conversations. The integrated and interactive content will create actionable steps for people to feel empowered by demanding action from their state’s elected officials on issues such as healthcare, education, criminal justice, economic justice, and voting rights.

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The NAACP has launched a campaign entitled #WeAreDoneDying, aimed at exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2020) – The NAACP, the nation’s foremost social justice organization, has launched a campaign entitled #WeAreDoneDying, aimed at exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large. From COVID-19 to running while Black in America, the abuse faced by people of color, particularly African Americans is devastating.

The campaign is a Call-to-Action and highlights the NAACP’s policy interests and supported legislation for African Americans and people of color, a large demographic that is often left out of recovery effort conversations. The integrated and interactive content will create actionable steps for people to feel empowered by demanding action from their state’s elected officials on issues such as healthcare, education, criminal justice, economic justice, and voting rights.

“With crumbling economic infrastructure, our community members face tough choices as access to food, good jobs, and a quality education slips further away,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. “These issues are compounded by the lack of strong leadership from the White House. In the absence of adequate guidance, Black lives are adversely affected. We will no longer stand idle as our people suffer discrimination, marginalization, and are offered as disposable for poor decisions by this Administration.”

As the incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths rise, the Black community is experiencing the worst outcomes. With more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country, African Americans are facing the brunt of this virus. The numbers continue to rise each day while states reopen non-essential businesses with little to no evidence that the country is ready.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the deep-seated racial disparity in America embedded in all aspects of life,” said Leon W. Russell, Chairman, NAACP Board of Directors. “The NAACP Empowerment Programs’ 111 years of advocacy and fighting for the rights of Black people positions us to lead the fight for our community’s interest during this time of uncertainty.”

Learn how you can join and get involved with the campaign by visiting NAACP.org.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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The AFRO Awarded $100,000 Grant by Facebook Journalism Project

THE AFRO — After receiving more than 2,000 applications for the COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program from newsrooms across every state in the US, all US territories and Washington, D.C., we are providing grants ranging from $25,000-$100,000 to help publishers continue serving communities during the coronavirus outbreak. These grant recipients were selected through a process led by the Local Media Association (LMA) and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and with significant contributions from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION), Local Media Consortium (LMC), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Thanks to these organizations’ partnership and expertise, we were able to set up a program to meet the immediate and timely needs of these newsrooms.

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Sign up for the Facebook Journalism Project newsletter to receive updates on Facebook’s ongoing efforts to support the news industry during the COVID-19 crisis.

Today, Facebook is announcing that more than 200 news organizations will receive nearly $16 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news. These grants stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in news. It includes:

$10.3 million being awarded to 144 US local newsrooms as part of the COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program. The fund is supporting many publishers who are hardest hit by this crisis: nearly 80 percent of recipients are family- or independently owned and more than half are published by or for communities of color.

$5.4 million being awarded to 59 North American newsrooms that participated in Facebook Local News Accelerator programs focused on subscriptions and memberships.

Remaining funds will be used throughout 2020 to support projects focused on longer-term sustainability in local journalism. This includes $2.5 million for Report for America, helping the group place 225 journalists in 160 local news organizations for their 2020 reporting corps.

Partnering with leading industry organizations like The Local Media Association and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism to move quickly, the Facebook Journalism Project has awarded more than 600 grants across the US and Canada since the pandemic began. Additional grant programs have been launched to support journalism around the world.

COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program

After receiving more than 2,000 applications for the COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program from newsrooms across every state in the US, all US territories and Washington, D.C., we are providing grants ranging from $25,000-$100,000 to help publishers continue serving communities during the coronavirus outbreak. These grant recipients were selected through a process led by the Local Media Association (LMA) and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and with significant contributions from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION), Local Media Consortium (LMC), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Thanks to these organizations’ partnership and expertise, we were able to set up a program to meet the immediate and timely needs of these newsrooms.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role local news plays in our communities, while simultaneously threatening their very existence. Reviewing hundreds of applications on a tight timeline both illustrated the depth of need, but also highlighted the innovation that these small, independent publishers can provide for their communities when given the resources,” said Jonathan Kealing, INN’s chief network officer. “I’m excited to see new news products and more critical original reporting in these communities, thanks to Facebook’s support.”

The pool of grant recipients is notable in several ways:

  • Nearly four in five are family- or independently owned.
  • Half are published by or for communities of color.
  • Nearly 40 percent are digitally native publishers.
  • Just over a third are non-profits.

“We’re proud to support this diverse group of publishers — many of which are family- or independently owned. Not only are these journalists working tirelessly to serve people right now — they’re focused on transformation, building innovative local news businesses that can continue to serve communities beyond the current pandemic,” said Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships at Facebook.

The COVID-19 Local News Relief Grant Program was designed to provide support for US local news organizations serving a critical role for communities impacted by COVID-19. Funding is intended to a) respond to immediate community needs and/or b) offset some revenue shortfalls to help publishers maintain long-term sustainability during this crisis.

Facebook Journalism Project Local News Accelerator Program

Launched in 2018 to support local news businesses in their transformation to reader revenue-driven business models, the Local News Accelerator program has grown to more than 600 participants from more than 100 newsrooms worldwide.

he program includes a three-month period of workshops, now fully virtual, led by the Accelerator’s executive director Tim Griggs, regular reports on best business practices and grants administered by the Lenfest Institute and the International Center for Journalists.

Accelerator participants from the US and Canada are receiving relief grants to help safeguard the transformation they’ve achieved over the last several years and to capitalize on new opportunities. As these news organizations continue to test and learn, we’ll share their progress, actionable tips and results on the Facebook Journalism Project website.

The coaches in the Facebook Accelerator went “above and beyond to help us, teaching practical concepts and tools that we could use right away and taking time to talk through problems. Our cohort members have been encouraging, collaborative and generous with their knowledge and experience,” said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, a participant in the 2020 Subscriptions Accelerator program. “We’re so grateful to Facebook for supporting local news at such a precarious time.”

The Facebook Journalism Project will host a webinar session on Friday, May 8th at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST titled “Practical Lessons to Accelerate Your Reader Revenue Strategy.” Led by Accelerator Executive Director Tim Griggs and Accelerator Program Manager David Grant, the session will give a distilled look at key tactics and strategies drawn from Accelerator publishers. To join, register to receive information about the program here: FB.me/BootcampRegistration.

News reporting has never been more critical. We’re proud to support all these news organizations as they provide critical reporting to their local communities during this challenging time.

Sign up for the Facebook Journalism Project newsletter to receive updates on Facebook’s ongoing efforts to support the news industry during the COVID-19 crisis.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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VIDEO: THE RUN DOWN – DJ D-NICE / #Homeschool House Party

THE AFRO — Host Micha Green talks about DJ D-NICE’s online house party, and trending topics in the AFRO American Newspaper.

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BE INSPIRED GLOBAL

By Micha Green, AFRO.COM

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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