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Justice for Rodney Reed!

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “All we want is a fair trial. That’s all we’re asking for,” Rodney Reed’s brother, Roderick, told The Final Call. “We want to be able to present witnesses and new evidence and clear his name … I believed he would have gotten off when he was on trial because we knew the truth. He and the rest of us as a family have always stood in that truth.”

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(Photo: The Final Call)

Family, supporters press Texas governor for new trial for man on death row

By Barrington M. Salmon, Contributing Writer, The Final Call
@bsalmondc

A crowd some of Rodney Reed’s family members estimated was about 1,000 people, recently gathered at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas demanding that Gov. Greg Abbott act to halt the execution of Mr. Reed in a controversial murder case.

In the past several months, there has been a groundswell of support for Mr. Reed, 51, who has been on death row for 20 years. In 1996, he was charged with and convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites by an all-White jury.

Rodney Reed and his family have always maintained his innocence and his brother and family spokesman Roderick Reed said the family wants a stay of execution and a new trial.

Rodney Reed is scheduled for execution Nov. 20 when an appeals court stepped in November 15th to suspend his death sentence indefinitely. The decision also ordered the court where he was originally tried to consider new evidence in the case.

“All we want is a fair trial. That’s all we’re asking for,” Mr. Reed told The Final Call. “We want to be able to present witnesses and new evidence and clear his name … I believed he would have gotten off when he was on trial because we knew the truth. He and the rest of us as a family have always stood in that truth.”

Roderick Reed said he knew his brother and Ms. Stites had been in a relationship and had met Ms. Stites but because of the racial climate and the potential for backlash and retaliation, the couple had kept their relationship secret. Ms. Stites, at the time, was engaged to a police officer, Jimmy Fennell, who many believed was her killer.

The uncovering of new evidence, recent affidavits from witnesses that point to Mr. Fennell’s involvement in Ms. Stites’ death and enduring questions about details of the victim’s death necessitates a new trial, Mr. Reed’s supporters say.

Roderick Reed and his wife Wana recounted the isolation the family endured. The family approached local churches and civil rights organizations for help but was rebuffed, he said.

“The family had been turned down repeatedly by local clergy. The Nation of Islam was the only one present,” said Student Min. Robert L. Muhammad, who has been supporting the Reed family for about 17 years. “The family has been disappointed and dismayed but recently, we have seen a great outpouring of support recently that is very encouraging.”

Mrs. Reed concurred.

“We were shunned by their people, shunned by Black press,” she recalled. “When the family first went out to Black churches, one pastor said, ‘I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot pole.’ ”

Both spoke of the Reed brothers—Robert, Ronald, Richard, Roderick, Ryan—being denied jobs because of their last names, and some older family members staying away from the family home for fear of being shot, ostracized or punished for their family ties.

Bastrop, Texas is 33 miles from Austin, the state capital and 85 miles from San Antonio. In 2017, the town had 8,802 residents. Min. Muhammad and the Reeds described a small Southern town steeped in racism, with the typical American racial hierarchy of Whites on top, Latinos in the middle and Blacks languishing at the bottom.

“Bastrop is racist but it’s lot different and deeper now,” Mrs. Reed said. “You don’t realize how deep it is because it’s almost second nature. It’s so deeply engrained in people. But it’s not like how it used to be. We have Confederate monuments on the courthouse lawn. Things may be getting better but there is always a sense of looming White supremacy and the racial hierarchy.”

Min. Muhammad, who heads Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, agreed.

“Bastrop has a history of racism that existed there from the early 1900s to the ’70s and ’80s,” said Minister Muhammad, who was born and raised in nearby Austin, which is a considerably more liberal city.

Mr. Reed said he knew his brother was dating Ms. Stites although that wasn’t common knowledge. His brother, his sister-in-law said, got caught up in the narrative of a Black guy was in relationship with White woman in a Southern town.

Staff at The Innocence Project, which is handling Mr. Reed’s case, and the Reed family have raised a number of troubling questions and highlighted a series of discrepancies which they say all add up to Mr. Reed being an innocent man railroaded by the criminal justice system. It includes discrepancies about the time of Ms. Stites’ death as well as, the fact that the murder weapon, a belt, has never been tested for DNA evidence; and the state’s three forensic experts’ admission on the record to errors in their testimony, which led to Rodney Reed’s conviction and death sentence. They have submitted affidavits that the original time of death is inaccurate, charging the timeline for Mr. Reed killing Stites implausible.

Further, renown forensic pathologists including Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dr. LeRoy Riddick, M.D., and Dr. Cyril Wecht, have all concluded that Rodney Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible; Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship although at the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. Today, new witnesses including Stites’s cousin and a co-worker, Alicia Slater, have corroborated Rodney Reed’s claim that they knew that Reed and Stites were romantically involved for months after the murder, and Jimmy Fennell was the prime suspect in the case. Mr. Fennell’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Mr. Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder.

Two witnesses have come forward in recent weeks and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Mr. Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Mr. Fennell threatened to kill Ms. Stites while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, who alleges Mr. Fennell made an alarming and incriminating statement at Ms. Stites’s funeral regarding her body. Then there is an alleged a confession by Mr. Fennell that came to light Oct. 29. Mr. Fennell served 10 years and was released from prison in 2018 after being convicted of assaulting a woman who was in his custody as a police officer. Arthur Snow, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood and prison mate of Mr. Fennell, disclosed a conversation in which Mr. Fennell allegedly confessed to murdering Stacey Stites stating, “I had to kill my nigg**-loving fiancée.”

The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Rodney Reed to the crime was semen taken from Ms. Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute a consensual romantic relationship, but some testimony has been recanted and discredits the state’s case, The Innocence Project said.

“We identify as death penalty abolitionists,” Mrs. Reed said. “Gov. (Greg) Abbott has been silent. He’s aware of Rodney’s case but has not made any statement, said nothing about it. He may be waiting for the (state) Supreme Court to act.”

Mrs. Reed said there are many holes in this case and substantial doubt.

“We want the state to give Rodney’s life back, show that he’s innocent,” she said. “The family wants them to stop the execution ASAP. Abbott can issue a stay and he has the power to direct this towards a new case.”

Rodney’s case has caught the attention of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian—who Mrs. Reed said has called, kept in touch and who is working behind the scenes along with rapper Meek Mill. Prison abolitionists, anti-death penalty advocates, ministers, priests and pastors have joined to lift their voices calling for Gov. Abbott to issue a stay of execution and order a new trial. Journalist and social justice activist Shaun King started a petition that had garnered more than 2 million signatures.

Then on Oct. 10-11, Dr. Phil McGraw explored the case on his television show to consider Mr. Reed’s claims of innocence.

“I don’t think it’s a question of whether he’s guilty or not guilty,” said Dr. Phil, who had an in-person interview with Mr. Reed, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. I think the question is, has he had a fair trial with a full airing of all of the evidence. And I think the answer to that question, in my opinion, is not just ‘no’ but ‘hell no.’”

The Innocence Project and Rodney Reed are seeking DNA testing of evidence that they say will exonerate him.

Mrs. Reed described the conditions under which her brother-in-law has lived for the past two decades.

“He’s incredibly strong. God has allowed me to see and witness true strength,” she said. “I went to visit him. He was upbeat. He is in a 6-foot square cell 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. He’s a big man in small space. He has pretty severe sensory deprivation. He’s not allowed to hug his mother, family or friends since all this time. But despite all that he’s pretty positive.”

She said Mr. Reed has no access to a computer, cell phone, or technology. He has supporters who reach out to him and that happens through his partner Judy Ann, who shares every day comments from his supporters and updates.

“He has family visits two hours a week. There’s a lot to get out because he’s trying to get everything out,” she said. “It can be a little tense sometimes. Rodney remains very strong and is being cautiously optimistic.”

Roderick Reed said his brother’s incarceration has been “a game-changer, life changing.”

“Dealing with this for this amount of time is a life changer. It has changed our lives. We’ll never be the same,” he said. “But every day knowing the truth and that Rodney’s innocent and this experience has brought me to a whole other place in my mind.”

Now, Roderick Reed said, he’s focused, looking forward to the day when his brother comes home.

“I’m very optimistic. He will be exonerated. We will have time to heal,” he concluded.

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Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.
The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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On Sunday, June 5, 2022, the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation honored 140, 8th-grade students across Chicagoland areas. Hosted at Visions Events Chicago at 11901 S. Loomis, parents, students, and schoolteachers participated in the 6th Annual CKF Scholarship Luncheon.

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.

Carolyn’s Kids Foundation has awarded over $50,000 in the past 5 years, and this year $17,000 was distributed to the Class of 2022. To support the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation and learn more, please visit their website: www.ckfchicago.org and follow them on FB @ckfchicago.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates appeared first on Chicago Defender.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”
The post Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisiana State Police (LSP) to assess whether the law enforcement agency uses excessive force and whether it engages in racially discriminatory policing.

According to a news release, the investigation will include a comprehensive review of LSP policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as LSP’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.

“Protecting the civil rights of all Americans and building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve are among the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the release.

“This investigation, like all of our pattern or practice investigations, will seek to promote the transparency, accountability, and public trust that is essential to public safety.”

The DOJ said it’s conducting the investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.

The statute allows the DOJ to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation, and law enforcement practices under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Officials called the investigation separate from any federal criminal investigation of LSP troopers.

Before the announcement, DOJ officials informed Governor John Bel Edwards, Colonel Lamar Davis, and Deputy General Counsel Gail Holland of the investigation.

According to the news release, each pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

As part of the investigation, DOJ officials will reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with LSP.

The Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana are conducting the investigation jointly.

“Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”

Clarke continued:

“The Justice Department stands ready to use every tool in our arsenal to confront allegations of misconduct and to ensure legitimacy during encounters with law enforcement.”

The DOJ ask that anyone with relevant information to contact them via email at Community.Louisiana@usdoj.gov or by phone at (202) 353-0684.

Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at civilrights.justice.gov.

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PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.
The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – 81 grassroots golf organizations will receive a total of $750,000 in funding to further their efforts to engage underrepresented populations of the sport. These groups (*full list below) are being awarded with a grant through Make Golf Your Thing, the industry’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in making the sport more welcome for all.

Initially introduced in 2021 (by the Make Golf Your Thing youth & adult player development work group), the grant program to date has provided 155 grants to 111 unique grassroots organizations, totaling more than $1 million overall (May 2021: 43 grants totaling $150,000; Jan. 2022: 31 grants totaling $150,000).

The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations (i.e., Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous communities, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities).

“When the game comes together and pools every resource to grow and broaden the reach of the game, only great things can happen,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA and executive sponsor of the youth & adult player development work group for Make Golf Your Thing.

“This unifying movement is helping to make a difference in communities across America and advance the game in ways none of us can do alone.”

“Access to golf in a business context is a pathway to opportunity,” said Anna Alvarez Boyd, co-founder of FairWays to Leadership (one of the 81 grant recipients).

“Our group’s mission is to increase diversity in business and in golf by teaching college students from diverse backgrounds the skills they need to become effective leaders. The financial commitment of the grant program to organizations like ours will only further golf’s collective efforts to bring new and diverse audiences into our sport.”

The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.

The directory allows individuals to search for programs and events using filters such as location, age, ability, gender, etc., giving new and diverse audiences an opportunity to become more engaged in the sport through programs in their own community.

Formally launched in May 2021, Make Golf Your Thing is the industry’s movement to make golf accessible to individuals from all backgrounds.

Led by six cross-industry work groups, the initiative is specifically focused on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications.

Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport.

Financial support for the program is led by a contingent of industry supporters committed to making the sport more welcoming and inclusive for all.

About Make Golf Your Thing

A multi-faceted, multi-year movement, Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort across the industry to invite more people to golf from all backgrounds.

Six cross-industry work groups are committed to making the sport more diverse, equitable and inclusive, with a specific focus on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications. For more, www.makegolfyourthing.org.

About the American Golf Industry Coalition

The American Golf Industry Coalition advocates on behalf of golf’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; environmental and sustainability initiatives; contributions to the economy (local and national); health and wellness benefits, as well as charitable giving.

The organization unites the golf industry in pursuit of goals designed to enhance the vitality and diversity of both the business and recreational levels of the sport. The American Golf Industry Coalition is a division of the World Golf Foundation.

To learn more, visit www.golfcoalition.org.

Grassroots Organization City/Town State
A Perfect Swing Foundation Inc. Charlotte NC
Adaptive Golfers North Myrtle Beach SC
Annika Foundation Orlando FL
Be Counted On Foundation Gahanna OH
Black College Golf Coaches Association Vestavia AL
Button Hole Providence RI
Cameron Champ Foundation Citrus Heights CA
CitySwing Foundation Washington D.C.
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Alhambra CA
DC on the Green McKinney AL
Edu-Sports Academy Willingboro NJ
El Dorado High School Golf Team El Paso TX
Excel Youth Academy Lawrenceville GA
FabNewport, Inc Newport RI
FairWays to Leadership, Inc. Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Florida Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Mississippi Flowood MS
First Tee – Greater Charleston Mt. Pleasant SC
First Tee – Greater Richmond Richmond VA
First Tee – Greater Sacramento (Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association) Sacramento CA
First Tee – Greater Trenton Trenton NJ
First Tee – Greater Tyler Bullard TX
First Tee – Greater Washington, DC Washington D.C.
First Tee – Greater Wichita Wichita KS
First Tee – Indiana Indianapolis IN
First Tee – Jersey Shore Point Pleasant NJ
First Tee – North Florida (Rising Leaders of North Florida, Inc.) St. Augustine FL
First Tee – Omaha (Hogan’s Junior Golf Heroes) Omaha NE
First Tee – Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
First Tee – Southeastern New Mexico Roswell NM
First Tee – Tennessee Knoxville TN
First Tee – Triangle Raleigh NC
First Tee – Tulsa (Youth Development of Tulsa) Tulsa OK
First Tee – West Michigan (Lake Michigan Junior Golf Association) Kentwood MI
Fore Life Inc. Lauderhill FL
Fore the Ladies Sylvania OH
Future Successors Atlanta GA
Gator Junior Golf Association Gainesville FL
Girls Golf of America, Inc. Greensboro NC
Golf. My Future. My Game. Washington D.C.
Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund Bedford OH
Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center Kansas City MO
Hi-Tee Junior Little League Golf Program Renton WA
Hit It Straight Golf Academy Homewood IL
I AM a Golfer Foundation Dallas TX
iGolf4VETS, Inc. Riverview FL
Inland Golf Academy Riverside CA
Inner City Youth Golfers’ Inc. Palm Beach Gardens FL
Inspiring Greatness In You Covington GA
Jackson Park Golf Association Chicago IL
Ladies of Futurity, Inc West Palm Beach FL
Latina Golfers Association Foundation Los Angeles CA
Little Linksters Sorrento FL
Matrix Human Services Detroit MI
Michigan Women’s Golf Association Detroit MI
Midnight Golf Program Bingham Farms MI
Milwaukee Area Youth Golf Academy, Inc. Glendale WI
Moore-Myers Children’s Fund Jacksonville FL
My Vision Golf Fayetteville GA
New Jersey Golf Foundation Inc. Bedminster NJ
Next 18 Fox Point WI
Northern Texas PGA Foundation – Fairway to Success Dallas TX
One Hundred Black Men, Inc. New York NY
Par Excellence Youth Development Huntsville AL
Range Fore Hope Foundation Blythewood SC
Rose Hill Schools Rose Hill KS
Southern California Golf Association – Junior Golf Foundation Studio City CA
Southern Area Youth Program, Inc. Los Angeles CA
Special Olympics Connecticut Hamden CT
SwingPals, Inc. Durham NC
Ted Rhodes Foundation, Inc. Chicago IL
The Caddie & Leadership Academy Kenosha WI
The Darby Foundation Lafayette LA
The Glove Foundation Mobile AL
The Honors Junior Golf Program Corona CA
The Pinkney Foundation Pittsburg CA
Upstate-Carolina Adaptive Golf Greenville SC
Western States Junior Golf Association Las Vegas NV
Women Golfers Give Back Plymouth Meeting PA
Women in Golf Foundation, Inc. Ellenwood GA

The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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