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Senate Confirms Vanita Gupta for Justice Dept. No. 3 Despite Broad GOP Opposition

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Senate confirmed Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General, the third highest-ranking official at the Justice Department, on Wednesday. Politicians voted for Gupta with a 51-49 majority.

What We Know:

  • Despite conservative activists believing she is someone who has built consensus across the “political divide”  in criminal justice reform, many Republicans opposed her nomination. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued Gupta has “repeatedly amplified left-wing fear-mongering toward judicial nominees and sitting federal judges.” McConnell also accused Gupta of using “the loosest possible interpretation” of her oath and in delivering her testimony during her confirmation process. In addition, he claimed her reputation greatly contrasts with Attorney Merrick Garland’s, whom he voted to confirm.
  • Other prominent Republicans that fought her nomination were Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Cruz compared her to “an extreme partisan advocate” and “an ideologue.” Grassley complained Gupta’s Twitter feed painted Republicans with “a broad brush.” He also did not like that she described the Republican National Convention (RNC) as three nights of racism, xenophobia, and lies on Twitter. Cotton accused Gupta of supporting the decriminalization of drugs. He continued to say she misled the committee on the issue, referencing a 2012 op-ed. In the article, she implied that states should legalize simple possession of all drugs, particularly marijuana. She asked officials to do the same for small amounts of other drugs.
  • Axios reports that GOP committee members interrogated Gupta on past tweets and comments that criticized Republicans and former President Donald Trump. Among the tweet mentioned previously, Gupta also admonished Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court on social media. She mentioned doing so sent a “dangerous message.” After the questioning, Gupta apologized during her confirmation hearing for any past “harsh rhetoric” used against GOP leaders on Twitter.
  • Furthermore, Republicans revealed outrage at her statement that everyone has implicit and racial biases. The New Republic writes that Grand Old Party (GOP) officials expressed anger at her claims as an attempt to use Gupta’s effort “to universalize these problems beyond white people against her.”
  • Gupta’s confirmation comes almost a month after the Senate Judiciary Committee had a 50-50 evenly divided Senate. Because of this, Senate had to vote to bring the nomination to the Senate floor last week.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took procedures to ensure this decision. When the Senate met on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris prepared in case she was needed to break the tie. However, her vote was unnecessary.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a moderate Republican, was the sole GOP member to back Gupta’s nomination. Murkowski explained her endorsement on the Senate floor. Although Gupta has made “troubling and concerning” remarks, Murkowski believes Gupta has been deeply committed to ensuring justice throughout her career.
  • Democratic figures fought for Gupta’s nomination. Schumer said as Associate Attorney General, Gupta will bring a “long overdue perspective” to the department. He also referenced her first case after law school in which she won the release of wrongfully convicted African-Americans, White, and Latino people. He did this to give politicians “a sense” of her commitment to civil rights and racial equity. Prior to the hearing, President Joe Biden cited his nomination in a Tuesday speech after Derek Chauvin’s verdict. He mentioned Gupta and Kristen Clarke, another nominee, would “root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system.” Once Gupta won, he congratulated her on Twitter. In that same tweet, he also urged Senate to confirm Clarke to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
“Both are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who are dedicated to advancing racial equity and justice,” he wrote.
  • Before her nomination, Gupta fought as a civil rights attorney for several groups. These include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She went on to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama Administration.

In addition to her achievements, Gupta is the first woman of color and civil rights attorney chosen for the position. Gupta’s nomination reaffirms the necessity for new voices and perspectives in our government.

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Headlines

Black Women Lead Initiative to Raise $100M for Black Girls and Women in the South

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The Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium is looking to raise $100 million in the next 10 years.

What We Know:

  • LaTosha Brown is one of the notable activists responsible for having a hand in turning Georgia into a blue state last election cycle. Brown is the co-founder of Black Votes Matter, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute. Another community that is joining this effort is Margo Miller. Miller is a Tennessee native is the executive director of the Appalachian Community Fund.
  • The Appalachian Community Fund is a non-profit looking to counter poverty and improve the lives of residents of Central Appalachia. Both Brown and Miller want to empower others to continue in their footsteps. Another member of the Southern Black Girls and Women Consortium is Felecia Lucky, who is the president of the Black Belt Community Foundation. Executive director of the Fund for Southern Communities, Alice Jenkins, is also a member.
  • The consortium has given itself the task of raising $100 million for Black women and girls over the next decade. As of today, they have already raised $10 million of that total and are in the process of raising more. Some of the funds have already been distributed to organizations in the form of grants. The group hosted a chat via their Twitter account, @Blackgirlsdream, on March 31st to discuss the state of women of color.
  • In an interview with theGrio, Brown expressed that their focus was on the South because the majority of Black people live in the South. The group of women designed listening sessions to learn Black Girl’s perceptions about themselves, their needs, their dreams, and the resources they need. The group then used this information to design funding approaches that ensure a fair distribution of funds.

The group hopes that their work will result in a shift in how Black girls in the South see themselves.

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Kansas Coach Fired for Using N-Word Toward Black Player

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The head baseball coach at Olathe North Highschool in Kansas has now been fired after using the N-word toward a Black player.

What We Know:

  • The father of student Tony Banks commented that he believes head coach Pete Flood was attempting to “derail” his son’s successful athletic career. Flood is now officially terminated from teaching in Olathe Public Schools after being suspended for a time period. The District recommended Flood’s termination on Friday. On Monday, the District board voted to fire him unanimously.
  • Banks’ son is the only Black player on Olathe North Highschools’ baseball team. His son was allegedly playing rap music during practice when Flood said to him, “We don’t play that N– music over here. We only play country and rock music.”
  • The coach claimed he was only referring to the music’s lyrics and not the student’s race. He goes on to say that he has never called anyone a racial slur in his 25 years of teaching nor in his personal life.
  • Flood has expressed regret in saying the N-word aloud but doesn’t regret telling the student to change the music. Banks expressed, “We really wanted to move beyond this. We’re not attention seekers.”
  • Olathe School Board President Joe Beveridge called Flood’s actions “inexcusable.” The Board of Education met in a special board meeting on Monday morning to discuss the situation. The conversation that took place wasn’t in doubt because there is no justification for a coach to talk to any student in that manner. Banks called other parents to contact Principal Janson Hermanon and Athletic Director Josh Price for Flood’s removal. Flood had been employed in the school district since 1996.

Pete Flood started as Olathe North’s head baseball coach at the beginning of this school year.

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Crime

7 People Dead In Colorado Birthday Party Shooting

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According to authorities, a lone gunman opened fire at a birthday party on Sunday, killing six before killing himself.

What We Know:

  • Shortly after midnight, the shooting took place in a mobile home park on the east side of Colorado Springs. Officers responded to a call at 12:18 a.m. and arrived at the trailer to find six adults dead, according to NPR. Another man with serious injuries was found who later died at the hospital.
  • In what Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers called “a senseless act of violence,” the shooter entered the mobile home and opened fire. Family friends and children were gathered inside the trailer, but no children were hurt in the shooting. Police say the suspected shooter was the boyfriend of one of the female guests at the party.
  • Gladis Bustos, who lives near where the shooting happened, described the night as quiet before the commotion happened. Bustos said the incident was “a bad, traumatic experience for everyone.” Another neighbor, Denise Knoll, was left speechless by the events. “There’s not really any words, you know? Why people do things like this, I just don’t get it,” said Knoll to NBC.
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called the Mother’s Day shooting “devastating,” offering his condolences to the victims’ families. Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski said in a statement a shooting of this kind is something you hope never happens in your community and that the police department would do everything in its power to investigate what happened.
  • The tragic incident in Colorado Springs is the first mass shooting in the state since March. During that incident, ten people were killed when a gunman walked into a grocery store and opened fire. The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School remains one of the most notable mass shootings in the state and nation’s history.

The identities of those killed in the shooting have not yet been released, and the investigation is ongoing. Colorado Springs is the second-largest city in the state after Denver.

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