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Chicago Police Announce “Shift” in Investigation Regarding Jussie Smollett Case, Confusion

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview,” he added.

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By Laruen Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On the night of February 16, the Chicago Police Department announced that their investigation into the alleged hate attack on actor Jussie Smollett had “shifted.”  The actor was allegedly attacked by two men in the early morning hours of January 29 in Chicago.  Smollett has been a star on the FOX Television show “Empire.”

On February 17, an attorney for Smollett said he the actor was “angered and devastated by recent reports” stating that the police were changing their theory of the case to the direction of an “orchestrated” hate attack.  Unsubstantiated rumors swirled that the two suspects arrested in the crime provided evidence to the investigators that contributed to the change in direction on the part of the investigators.

“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview,” he added.

Smollett’s response to rumor that the attack was staged was pointed.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” Smollett stated through his attorneys.

“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continues. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.  At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”

“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax,” Chicago Police spokesman Guglielmi told reporters. “The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect,” he added.

Several reports claim that Smollett offered to pay two Nigerian models, Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, $4,000 to stage the January 29 assault. Those reports are unconfirmed.

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

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Chicago

(In)Justice for All Film Festival International Scheduled August 12-21

Free Virtual Event to Feature Films, Poets, and Panel Discussions

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7th (In)Justice for All Film Festival (IFAFF) Flyer

Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, its Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, and The Next Movement (TNF) announce the 7th (In)Justice for All Film Festival (IFAFF), scheduled August 12-21. 

Because of the pandemic, this much-anticipated fest remains FREE of charge and will be virtual. This year, the IFAFF has partnered with Eventive, a well-established and respected virtual film distribution platform. 

The IFAFF brings audiences films that explore America’s criminal justice system – police, courts, and corrections – and the industries that profit from this cauldron of human misery. Stories told include those of millions of people who are relegated to second-class citizenship under an unforgiving system. Stories also highlight how other countries are successfully addressing this issue, as well as showcasing best practices right here in America.  

The virtual 7th IFAFF International will screen feature-length documentaries, feature films, and topical shorts, all with themes centered on the epidemic of mass incarceration, the criminal (in)justice system, racism and white supremacy, gun violence, police brutality, unfair housing, immigration, social unrest, and other human rights violations.  

The film festival brings additional context to the films and their messages through a variety of panel conversations as well as the inclusion of spoken word segments. It also includes a film competition for new movies and “Justice Awards” for exceptional films that best demonstrate the challenges and tragedies of our broken justice systems.

While the focus is on new films that are submitted into the competition, a variety of older films highlighting the historical perspectives of today’s challenges also are screened.  

The Next Movement (TNM) was born as a response to a 2010 visit and lecture by Professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, held at Trinity United Church of Christ. TNM, organized as a committee of the Trinity United Church of Christ Prison Ministry, is comprised of people of all races, ages, and religions who view mass incarceration as the key human rights issue of our time, and who are committed to building the mass movement necessary to alleviate it. 

Through education, awareness and organizing individuals and organizations, TNM is dedicated to mobilizing the “people power” necessary to make the systemic changes required. 

The 7th IFAFF International will run over a 10-day period from August 12-21. Free tickets are available by visiting www.injusticeforallff.com or https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff. 

In addition to screening films, this year’s festival will include grand opening events: Spoken Word interludes featuring exciting Chicago poets, special guest speakers, panelists/panel discussions providing context to the many films to be featured over the 10 days (dealing with organizing, restorative justice, domestic violence, immigration, bail reform, racism, eviction, and, of course, mass incarceration); and closing ceremony/awards events. 

The magic of the festival derives from a committed, extensive group of partners who contribute their enthusiasm, relationships, and more to spread the news of the IFAFF International throughout Chicago and the nation. Independent film houses, universities, justice organizations, faith communities, and select media outlets comprise the bulk of IFAFF partners. 

Major 2021 IFAFF sponsors include Trinity United Church of Christ – Unashamed Media Group, Coalition to End Money Bond, and Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church. 

IFAFF website address – www.injusticeforallff.com

Eventive IFAFF website address – https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff

Twitter & IG – @IFAFF

FB – @IFAFFInternational

Hashtag – #IFAFF2021

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African American News & Issues

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Announces National Health Equity Strategy to Confront the Nation’s Crisis in Racial Health Disparities Sets Goal to Reduce Racial Disparities in Maternal Health by 50% in Five Years

“Your health shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The crisis in racial disparities in our country’s health care is unconscionable and unacceptable. While BCBS companies have made great strides in addressing racial health disparities in our local communities, there is so much more to be done.”

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CHICAGO, IL (April 20, 2021) – Today, as part of its ongoing mission to improve the health of America, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) announced its National Health Equity Strategy to confront the nation’s crisis in racial health disparities. This strategy intends to change the trajectory of heath disparities and re-imagine a more equitable healthcare system. BCBSA has convened a national advisory panel of doctors, public health experts and community leaders to provide guidance.
“Your health shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The crisis in racial disparities in our country’s health care is unconscionable and unacceptable. While BCBS companies have made great strides in addressing racial health disparities in our local communities, there is so much more to be done.”
“Starting here and starting now, we can begin to put an end to the racial disparities in health care,” continued Keck. “Our deep roots in the local communities we serve, combined with the scale and scope of our national reach, enable all of us at Blue Cross Blue Shield companies to drive this new strategy and bring real change. But we cannot do it alone. It is a moment in time when we as a nation must come together to build a new model of equitable health care.”

BCBSA’s National Health Equity Strategy is comprehensive and relies on close collaboration with providers and local community organizations. This collaboration was essential in recent months as BCBS companies worked with local leaders to support vulnerable communities with COVID-19 vaccine access. The strategy includes collecting data to measure disparities, scaling effective programs, working with providers to improve outcomes and address unconscious bias, leaning into partnerships at the community level, and influencing policy decisions at the state and federal levels. The multi-year strategy will focus on four conditions that disproportionately affect communities of color: maternal health, behavioral health, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. BCBSA will first focus on maternal health, then behavioral health in 2021.
Setting a Goal to Address Racial Disparities in Maternal Health BCBSA has set a public goal to reduce racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in five years.
“BCBS companies are fully committed to reach this goal,” said Keck. “We will continue to collaborate with our local partners and providers to continually improve our programs and build momentum, and we will seek out new ideas and proven initiatives that accelerate health equity reform.”
Metrics will include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Severe Maternal Morbidity measures. BCBSA will report results annually. Use of nationally consistent measures will evolve over time based on research, industry development, and in-market learnings.
BCBS companies currently have a range of maternal health programs supporting women of color during their pregnancies. Each program is tailored to the needs of the communities they serve. These BCBS companies’ maternal health programs support both BCBS members and non-members of their partner organizations.

Commenting on the breadth of the BCBS companies’ maternal health programs, Dr. Rachel Hardeman, Founding Director, Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity and Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy & Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and member of the newly formed advisory panel, said: “Who better to address racial disparities in maternal health than Blue Cross Blue Shield? BCBS companies serve every ZIP code across the U.S., and they have the scale and resources needed to ensure women of color get equitable maternal health care.”
A Panel of Experts Focused on Closing America’s Gap in Health Equity “The more people we bring to the table, the more we can create lasting change,” said Keck about the nine handpicked members of the BCBSA National Advisory Panel on Health Equity. “I’m excited we have brought together such experienced, highly regarded leaders in health equity and the community, and I look forward to their guidance as we move forward.”
Members include: Tracey D. Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association®; Marshall Chin, MD, MPH, Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics at the University of Chicago; Gilbert Darrington, CEO of Health Services, Incorporated; Adaeze Enekwechi, PhD, MPP, Research Associate Professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University; Maria S. Gomez, RN, MPH, President and CEO of Mary’s Center; Rachel R. Hardeman, PhD, MPH, Tenured Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy & Management at the University of Minnesota; Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes; Richard Taylor, CEO of ImbuTec; and Kevin Washington, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. The National Health Equity Strategy is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Pledge to Make Meaningful Change. The Pledge speaks to BCBS companies’ broad commitment to addressing racial disparity in health and all its forms.

ABOUT BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 35 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides healthcare insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. You can read our Pledge to Make Meaningful Change here. To learn more about our National Health Equity Strategy and our Maternal Health Program, visit BlueHealthEquity.com.

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Activism

Over 1,000 Bay Area March in Solidarity with Asians Against Hate and Violence

The protest began in the San Francisco’s Castro District at 17th and Castro streets, where LGBTQ leaders spoke out against the racist attacks. Mayor Breed said, We’re going to bring something back something similar to the Guardian Angels (in the 1980s).

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Over 1,000 people rallied in San Francisco last weekend to stand in solidarity with the Asian community against racist hate and violence. Photo courtesy of SF Mayor's Press Office.

More than 1,000 people demonstrated in San Francisco this past weekend, marching down Market Street to express outrage and call for united community action against Anti-Asian hate and violence.

Speaking at the rally,  SF Mayor London Breed pledged citywide solidarity with the Asian community.

The protest began in the San Francisco’s Castro District at 17th and Castro streets, where LGBTQ leaders spoke out against the racist attacks. Mayor Breed said, We’re going to bring something back something similar to the Guardian Angels (in the 1980s).

“In the neighborhoods, where we have our seniors, we’re going to protect them and look out for them,” she said.

In an interview, Mayor Breed said, “These attacks are devastating- because this community has already suffered enough, and the worst part about is that that they are elderly people, in pretty much every single instance,” she said.

Breed said that in the next few days, she will announce major new programs “to keep the community safe.”

While the city will increase police response in affected neighborhoods, she said, “We all have to take responsibility.”

“We have to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable for what they have done,” she said.

The rally in San Francisco was one of the largest of a number of protests across the country over the weekend.

In Atlanta, where six people died in a recent shooting at massage businesses, hundreds gathered near the Georgia Capitol  to demand justice for the victims and  condemned racism, xenophobia and misogyny.

In Chicago, about 300 people held a rally, and in New York City, hundreds marched from Times Square to Chinatown.

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