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LGBTQ Rights Icon Bayard Rustin Granted Posthumous Pardon in California

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Bayard Rustin, an LGBTQ civil rights activist, was granted a posthumous pardon almost 33 years after his death.

What We Know:

  • Rustin, confidant of civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr., was posthumously pardoned for an arrest in 1953 by Governor Gavin Newsom.
  • Authorities arrested Rustin for participating in same-sex acts with two men in a parked car in Pasadena. At that time, authorities unfairly punished adult individuals for engaging in consensual same-sex acts.
  • According to HuffPost, Rustin had to register as a sex offender and spent 50 days in Los Angeles County Jail, before returning to his home state of New York.
  • Furthermore, during that time, vagrancy, loitering, and sodomy were often implied to punish lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ).
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom also declared an executive order to begin a new clemency initiative. The declaration is for those who might be eligible for pardons and swiftly conder those applications; he urged California to grant clemency for those that meet the criteria. 
  • HuffPost added that both Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber told Newsom that the civil rights leader’s family and friends knew he was gay. Rustin’s closet political and religious affiliates distanced themselves after his arrest. 
  • Weiner said in a statement, “Generations of LGBT people —  including countless gay men —  were branded criminals and sex offenders simply because they had consensual sex.” She then added, “This was often life-running, and many languished on the sex offender registry for decades.”
  • Weber also proclaimed that the pardon helps to maintain Rustin’s legacy in the civil rights movement.
  • California took a major step in repealing the egregious laws against consensual same-sex acts between adults in 1975; and, the state created a solution for removing individuals from the California Sex Offender Registry; but, neither of the steps aided the original convictions. 
  • Finally, Rustin lost his leadership post at the Fellowship Reconciliation — a pacifist organization involved in the civil rights movement — after Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina read Rustin’s arrest file into the Congressional Record.

In the past, President Obama presented Rustin with a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his important work in Civil Rights/Activism.

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Crime

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY on ALL Charges for the Murder of George Floyd

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BLACK NEWS ALERTS SPECIAL REPORT

The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

WATCH THE VERDICT LIVE:

Feed courtesy of Washington Post

What We Know:

  • The verdict was read in open court with unanimous decisions on all three counts, none of which carry a charge of life in prison. The three counts are as follows:
    • Second-degree unintentional murder (also referred to as felony murder): Sentence up to 40 years in prison.
    • Third-degree murder: Sentence up to 25 years.
    • Second-degree manslaughter: Sentence up to 10 years.
  • The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating Monday after three weeks of witness testimony.
  • The third-degree murder charge had initially been dismissed, but it was reinstated after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it days before jury selection started.
  • Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, who was Black, was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
  • Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd to die from low oxygen or asphyxia. The defense claimed that Floyd’s illegal drug use and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and urged jurors not to rule out other theories, as well, including exposure to carbon monoxide.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 03: Graffiti artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd in Manchester’s northern quarter on June 03, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • During closing arguments, prosecutors sought to focus jurors’ attention on the 9 minutes, 29 seconds they say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, while Chauvin’s defense attorney told them that “the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds” of the interaction.
  • Prosecutors called 38 witnesses, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen bystander video that brought global attention to Floyd’s death. She and other bystanders who testified said they are haunted by Floyd’s death and that they wish they had done more to try to save his life. The defense called seven witnesses, two of whom were experts.
  • Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder days after Floyd’s death, but William Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, rejected the deal because, officials said, he was worried that it was too early in the investigation and that it would be perceived as too lenient.

Floyd’s death touched off international protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The city of Minneapolis has spent months preparing for the trial and for the potential of unrest over the verdict.

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Education

Furman University Unveils Statue of its First Black Student

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Joseph Vaughn attended Furman University back in 1965.

What We Know:

  • A statue of Vaughn, the school’s first African-American student, was revealed on Friday, April 16th, 2021, in Greenville, SC. The statue was modeled after a photo of Vaughn walking up to the school’s library. Vaughn died in 1991 and served as president of the Greenville and Southeast NAACP student chapters. He graduated Cum Laude in 1968 before becoming a teacher in Greenville County.
  • He also served as the president of both the Greenville County Association of Teachers and the South Carolina Education Association. Qwameek Bethea, a senior student and president of Furman’s NAACP chapter was the one who convinced the university to build the statue. Vaughn was not originally welcomed by everyone on campus when he became a student. Vaughn allegedly found a noose hanging from his doorknob one morning shortly after he arrived.
  • The Vaughn statue was two years in the making and is part of a larger movement the University began in 2017. The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was created out of inspiration from an op-ed written in 2016. The piece was written by a student of the school and notably questioned the University’s legacy. Vaughn’s statue is one of a dozen recommendations the group proposed to the University for approval.
  • The school expanded its Joseph Vaughn scholarship for students in 2018 and renamed one of its dormitories after Clark Murphy, a black groundskeeper at the school, in 2020. Vaughn is the first person of color whose likeness is featured prominently on the Furman campus. The original unveiling of the statue was planned to be in January but was rescheduled due to high rates of coronavirus around the community at the time.

Members of Vaughn’s family showed up for the occasion as well, noting that Vaughn stood for “an instrument of change.”

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Headlines

Hester Ford, Oldest Living American, Dies at 115

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The North Carolina woman died peacefully in her Charlotte home Saturday, a family member confirmed.

What We Know:

  • According to the Gerontology Research Group, Hester Ford was 115 years and 245 days old at the time of her death. However, the family stated Ford was born on August 15th, 1904, which would’ve made her 116. Whichever age is correct, Ford was the oldest living American, having been confirmed as such in 2019.
  • Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina. She married John Ford at age 14 and had the first of her 12 children the next year. The couple moved to Charlotte where she remained for the rest of her life. From her 12 children, Ford was granted 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and possibly more than 120 great-great-grandchildren.
  • In a statement, her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe called her grandmother a true innovator. “She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’.” Patterson-Powe continued, saying “She never complained, never showed defeat or entertained a pity party.”

“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” said Patterson-Powe.

  • When asked about her secret to a long life, Ford stated, “I just live right, all I know.” According to her family, Ford enjoyed a daily routine of eating half a banana, going outside for fresh air, and reclining while looking through photos or listing to gospel music.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Thelma Sutcliffe of Nebraska, born in 1906, is now the oldest living American. The oldest living person on Earth however is Kane Tanaka of Japan who is 118.

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