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Gov. Abbott Unlawfully Exceeded Authority with Executive Order Limiting Jail Releases, Argues New Lawsuit

NNPA NEWSWIRE — AUSTIN, TX — Governor Abbott unlawfully exceeded his constitutional authority by issuing an executive order that suspends the rights that individuals, who are presumed innocent, have while facing criminal prosecution, according to a new lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Texas, Texas Fair Defense Project, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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(Photo: Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the gubernatorial debate at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. / Jay Godwin / Wikimedia Commons)

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Lawsuit says governor’s order restricting releases exceeds his constitutional authority; public health experts agree reducing populations in prisons and jails necessary to prevent outbreaks

AUSTIN, TX — Governor Abbott unlawfully exceeded his constitutional authority by issuing an executive order that suspends the rights that individuals, who are presumed innocent, have while facing criminal prosecution, according to a new lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Texas, Texas Fair Defense Project, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The lawsuit, filed today in the State District Court of Travis County, is on behalf of the misdemeanor magistrate judges of Harris County, three criminal defense non-profit organizations and the NAACP of Texas. It states that the Governor’s March 29 order, GA-13, unlawfully attempts to remove discretion from judges about who can receive personal bonds and suspend certain laws related to decisions about who can be released on personal bond, while the Texas Constitution clearly states that those decisions lie with the Judiciary and the power to suspend laws lies only with the Legislature. The lawsuit argues that the Texas Disaster Act also does not grant the Governor with this authority. The lawsuit also states that GA-13 creates an unconstitutional wealth-based system by banning the use of personal bonds for certain people, putting pre-trial freedom out of the reach of those unable to pay cash bail.

“Governor Abbott’s illegal executive order disproportionately keeps poor people, people of color, and in particular African Americans jailed and therefore at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Arthur Ago, criminal justice project director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “These individuals, many of whom are legally innocent, have the right to petition for their freedom—a right that the governor has unconstitutionally taken from them. The governor must be prohibited from enforcing this executive order.”

“The Texas Constitution makes it clear: The Governor does not have the authority to suspend state law, particularly those that govern our criminal justice system, even during an emergency,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “At a time when public health experts agree that limiting the population in jails is critical to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19, this order ties local officials’ hands in trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic for all Texans and prevent loss of life. Under this order, those unable to afford bail are required to ride out a pandemic in the dangerous setting of a jail, while wealthier people are able to buy their way out.”

The plaintiffs include the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Association, and Capital Area Private Defender Service, the Texas State Conference of NAACP Units, and all Harris County misdemeanor judges. The executive order harms the plaintiffs in different ways: for the judges, it unilaterally abridges the discretion given to them by law and the constitution; for the criminal defense organizations, it renders advising clients difficult and responding to the unique challenges it creates has subsumed their work; and harms the diverse membership of the NAACP, which includes judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, county commissioners and jail staff in a multitude of ways.

“This order is creating uncertainty and havoc in the courts, and disrupting the potentially life-saving efforts of local officials to reduce their jail populations in light of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Amanda Woog, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project. “The harms of this order are not abstract: poor people are being detained pretrial with no way to escape a possible jail outbreak. The governor has overstepped his legal authority, and this is causing significant harm on the ground.”

“While we understand the Governor was trying to address this health emergency, it is abundantly clear to us that he is invading the province the Texas Constitution provides to our judges when exercising their responsibilities according to law,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas Conference of the NAACP. “It’s also clear that the Executive Order no doubt will have dire consequences for inmates as well as correctional officers and staff. We know this from the numerous examples regarding how quickly the coronavirus can and does spread without regard to race, income, class or status. The virus isn’t stopped by jail cells or other such barriers. To the contrary, jails increase the rates of coronavirus infection. For all those reasons it’s best to leave the decisions of how to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the jails and prisons to judges. Under our laws, they are the ones who are best suited to make those decisions.”

A copy of the complaint filed in court today is available here:https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/eo_petition_2020.4.8._comms.pdf 

The previous letter sent to criminal legal stakeholders is available here:https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/covid-19_response_to_local_cj_stakeholders.pdf

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FILM: Top 10 Must-See Black documentaries

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Below you will find a list of documentaries, based on the roots of African American culture, compiled by Word in Black partner, The Houston Defender. From “I Am Not Your Negro” to “High on the Hog,” each film offers up the origin stories of our most important activists, artists, athletes and traditions.
The post FILM: Top 10 Must-See Black documentaries first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By The Houston Defender | Word in Black

The AFRO’s October Special Edition is all about the roots of our culture, our family lineage and the return to old ways and traditions. Below you will find a list of documentaries, based on the roots of African American culture, compiled by our Word in Black partner, The Houston Defender. From I Am Not Your Negro to High on the Hog, each film offers up the origin stories of our most important activists, artists, athletes and traditions.

#10: Attica (2021) 

In September 1971, Attica Prison became the location of one of the largest prison riots in US history, taking place just weeks after revolutionary activist George Jackson was murdered by prison guards at Rikers Island, an act that initiated the birth of Black August and the prison reform movement. The constant abject cruelty and inhumane treatment doled out to the incarcerated (who were overwhelmingly Black and Latinx) by Attica guards (all White) created the context. The riot itself, and its aftermath, are something all human beings should be required to reckon with.

#9: Quincy (2018) 

If you’re Black, it literally doesn’t matter when you were born, what generation you’re a part of, or where you’re from. You’ve been impacted by the genius of Quincy Jones. We’ve all been influenced by the genius of Quincy Jones. The music he made, the albums he produced, the artists he developed, the movies he scored, and about a gazillion other things Jones did, means, as I’ve already said, if you’re Black, Quincy has had a hand in your life. Don’t believe me. What Black person do you know who isn’t a Michael Jackson fan, who hasn’t seen The Wiz, or who doesn’t have a family member who worships jazz music? Quincy Jones had his hand in all that and so much more. Directed by one of his daughters, actress Rashida Jones, this doc is most definitely a must see.

#8: Four Little Girls (1997) 

On Sept. 15, 1963, just 18 short days after the much-celebrated March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed by four members of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated racist group. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, four African American girls between the ages of 11 and 14 who had been attending the church’s Sunday school, were killed in the blast, an act of White domestic terrorism that served as a horrific and sober reminder that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not enough to end the hold the myth of White supremacy had on so many. Director Spike Lee tells this powerfully compelling and important story as only he can.

#7: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (2019) 

For generations that came after the Baby Boomers, it’s hard for us to fully fathom how big a star Sam Cooke was. Think of the biggest singer of any generation. That was Sam Cooke in his heyday. And not only was he hyper-talented, but not only did he call some of the biggest names in Black history his personal friends (Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X just to name a few), Cooke was a man of the people. And he was heavily invested in the Civil Rights Movement and an advocate for Black self-determination and Black ownership. Cooke even pulled a “Prince” long before Prince—gaining ownership of his own music, something that was as rare then as it is today. This documentary chronicles Cooke’s life, rise to fame, and eventual end, though his influence never died.

#6: Thunder Soul (2010) 

Here’s a hometown entry. Thunder Soul spotlights the extraordinary alumni from Houston’s storied Kashmere High School Stage Band which the iconic Conrad Johnson led. These alums return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for the 92-year-old ‘Prof’, their beloved band leader who transformed the schools struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s. This one will have you out of your seat and dancing in the streets. Check it out.

#5: Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (2021)  

In this documentary, criminal defense/civil rights lawyer Jeffery Robinson “draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America.” It’s that simple, and yet that complex. And it goes without saying; it’s a must see.

#4: Jeen-Yuhs (2022) 

No matter where you score on the Love Ye / Hate Ye scale, this 2022 documentary about his rise to superstardom is beyond compelling. I mean, who thinks to chronicle their every move from the moment they start pursuing their dream until they either give up on it or see it to fruition and beyond? Who does that? No one but this negro Kanye. He may be the only human being with an ego big enough to conceive of such a project. And believe me, the scope and scale of this documentary match that galaxy-sized self-obsession brahman has that make him both insanely talented and just plain insane at the same time.

#3: I Am Not Your Negro (2016) 

This documentary by Raoul Peck, director of Exterminate All the Brutes (2021) which made the first list of must-see documentaries, introduced the brilliance and unabashed Black of James Baldwin to a whole new generation. Described as a work that imagines the completion of Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House (about Baldwin’s personal reflections on and recollections of three of his personal friends who were killed during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), I Am Not Your Negro is about so much more.

#2: The Last Dance (2020) 

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to get caught up in the chronicling of the last run at an NBA championship by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls who had been told before the season began that the team would be broken up. The doc not only takes you on that 1996 Bulls’ championship ride, but it also digs deep into the past of players, coaches, and family members, spotlighting triumphs and tragedies that are part of the human story, not just the story of professional athletes.

#1: High on the Hog 

How African American Cuisine Transformed America (2021)

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for anything that celebrates our history, especially those things that connect us to our African roots and our Pan-African family. This documentary does all that and more. Because the main character is food. Our food. The stuff we grew up on. The meals many of us are eating right now, and never stopped eating since our youth. This beautifully filmed, beautifully narrated piece of art is full of both the familiar and the foreign; or rather, things we’ve come to believe are foreign to us, but are really part of our story and our heritage. And the okra on top? High on the Hog has a powerful H-Town connection. A few, in fact.

This list of documentaries based on the roots of African American culture was compiled by Word In Black.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades

NNPA NEWSWIRE — According to internal VA data obtained by the Washington Post, Black applicants seeking disability benefits were denied 30 percent of the time from 2002 to 2020. White applicants were denied 24 percent of the time.
The post Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Black Information Network | Atlanta Daily World

A new lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alleges that the U.S. government discriminated against Black veterans for decades.

On Monday (November 28), the suit was filed by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) on behalf of Vietnam War veteran Conley Monk Jr, whose applications for education, housing, and disability benefits have been denied since he returned home from the war, per The Hill.

According to the suit, discrimination by the VA has left Black veterans without benefits more frequently than their white counterparts.

Yale’s VLSC said the lawsuit could “provide a legal pathway for Black veterans to seek reparations from the VA.”

“This lawsuit seeks to hold the VA accountable for years of discriminatory conduct,” Adam Henderson, a law student working with the VLSC on the case, said in a statement, per the Hill.

“VA leaders knew, or should have known, that they were administering benefits in a discriminatory manner, yet they failed to address this unlawful bias,” Henderson added. “Mr. Monk — and thousands of Black veterans like him — deserve redress for the harms caused by these negligently administered programs.”

According to internal VA data obtained by the Washington Post, Black applicants seeking disability benefits were denied 30 percent of the time from 2002 to 2020. White applicants were denied 24 percent of the time.

VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said the agency is working to combat “institutional racism.”

“Throughout history, there have been unacceptable disparities in both VA benefits decisions and military discharge status due to racism, which have wrongly left Black veterans without access to VA care and benefits,” Hayes said. “We are actively working to right these wrongs.”

The post U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans For Decades: Lawsuit appeared first on Atlanta Daily World.

The post Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Through colorful pictures with vibrant imagery, young readers will easily get drawn into the exciting adventures of Bennett Mayco Wilson’s fictional yet exciting world and learn valuable childhood lessons together, when Bennet gets a basketball as a present from his father on his fourth birthday.
The post BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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‘A Basketball Hero is Born’ is a part of The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover, which aims to inspire youth to make a positive change in their communities and the world in general

Widely celebrated African American author, Jerald LeVon Hoover, is once again inspiring young people to make a positive change in their communities with the launch of a new children’s book. Titled A Basketball Hero is Born, the new children’s reading book contains colorful pictures that warm the heart and keep young readers glued to its pages.

The plot follows the exciting adventures of Bennett Mayco Wilson who gets a basketball as a present from his father on his fourth birthday. Affectionately naming the new basketball “Lucky,” the story unfolds as young Bennett tries to take his new best friend everywhere, including the dinner table, to school, and to bed when it is time for sleep.

Jerald L. Hoover

Jerald L. Hoover

Through colorful pictures with vibrant imagery, young readers will easily get drawn into Bennett’s fictional yet exciting world and learn valuable childhood lessons together. Currently available for purchase on Amazon, A Basketball Hero is Born is a part of The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover, which emphasizes instilling a love of sports and friendship in young readers.

About The Author

Jerald L. Hoover is a multi-talented individual with countless accomplishments in the creative, literary, and entertainment worlds. After winning an award for “The Best New Male Writer of the Year” for his fictional novel, My Friend, My Hero Jerald went on to be listed from 1994 – 1996 as a best-selling author among young Black writers in various African American publications. In 1995, he was awarded the Writers Corp Award by then-President Bill Clinton. In 1998, Jerald was inducted into the Mount Vernon Boy’s and Girl’s Club Hall of Fame. Since then, Jerald has won several other awards and is also an in-demand motivational speaker who overcame a childhood speech impediment.

The post BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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