Tri-State Defender General News Story



By Erica R. Williams, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

“Do the right thing.” That’s what Lucille Catron, executive director of the Beale Street Development Corporation (BSDC), said she’s asking of Mayor Jim Strickland. In a meeting on Monday, Catron and her attorney met with the mayor asking for two things: inclusion of the African-American community in making pivotal decisions that affect the city and to honor the master lease she said the BSDC should still have over Beale Street. “All of the leases of the buildings are under our umbrella,” Catron explained. “There would be no FedExForum or Hard Rock Café if it wasn’t for the Beale Street Development Corporation signing off on them.” In the 1970’s, Catron’s husband, Randal Catron, was part of a group of African Americans who formed the BSDC, securing $23 million in funding along with the federal rights over the notable entertainment district for 52 years. Randal Catron died in 2015. City officials allege that shortly before his death, he signed over his rights to the master lease during a settlement agreement. That’s when the city formed the Beale Street Tourism Authority Board to take control; but last month the board was abolished after Memphis City Council members voted for its elimination. Now Catron and her team are fighting for what they say is theirs: the rights to the master lease of Beale Street. Tuesday, a judge ruled that there was a 2015 settlement agreement signed by both parties, leaving the city with the rights to the master lease; but Catron believes that her husband’s signature was forged. That’s why she’s suing the city for breaching the master lease. The case is currently in litigation. “He was on his dying bed and in no position to sign anything. If he did, then where are the assignment papers?” she asked, referring to the documents that show proof of the handing over of contractual rights or responsibilities. To date, those documents have not been presented. Without them, Catron said the city’s claim is null and void. “It’s a shame that the city is forcing us to litigate,” Larry Parrish, the BSDC’s attorney said. “Beale Street Development Corporation’s greatest desire is that all of the disputing between them and the city be settled immediately so that the business of Beale Street can go on without the cloud of litigation.” Despite the BSDC’s objections, a representative from Mayor Strickland’s office said the mayor plans to hire a new management firm for Beale Street within the next 60 days. Catron continues to dispute that authority. “We are in court to prove that the BSDC still has the power to hire the next manager.” She has connected with members of the management firm 21Beale. The company consisting of attorneys, real estate executives and a nightclub owner, was formed to bid on the management of the entertainment district. The bidding process lasted for more than a year, with 21 Beale beating out the competition. It ended in October after the Tourism Development Authority voted to terminate the process. Dwayne Kyles of 21 Beale cites race as a factor in that decision. “What has happened on Beale is an implication of what is wrong with Memphis,” Kyles claimed. “You have a small group of people who can affect the decision of an entire city while disregarding others.” Catron and Kyles are calling on the mayor to stand behind his proposed initiatives to support minority-owned businesses in the city. “The mayor has been very vocal about his commitment in supporting black-owned businesses. This is his opportunity to practice what he’s been preaching,” Kyles said. “He has signature power.” The New Tri-State Defender reached out to representatives from the mayor’s office, who issued this statement: “Mayor Strickland has shown through words and actions that he is serious about finding opportunities for minority-owned businesses. The city has increased its spending with minority-owned businesses by 30 percent within the past year.” Catron said there is more to be done. “The mayor has the power to create change and stop the litigation with just a stroke of a pen.” Both she and Kyles said the issues are bigger than the case between the BSDC and the city, acknowledging that the fight is far from over. Catron and her team plan to move forward with the lawsuit to re-obtain the rights to the master lease of Beale; and Kyles and his counterparts are still hoping to be the firm chosen to manage the street. “We hope to present a living, breathing example of how it is you should fight for change,” Kyles said. “We aren’t going anywhere. Beale Street is our legacy.”

Family of Walter Scott says plea represents justice

By Meg Kinnard and Jeffrey Collins, Associated Press

Relatives of Walter Scott differ on how much time a white former officer should spend in federal prison for gunning down the black motorist, with one brother suggesting Michael Slager should go away for life. But others, like Scott's mother Judy, said the officer's admission of guilt was all the punishment she needed to have closure and move on, telling reporters, "That he admitted he did it was enough years for me." It's now solely up to a federal judge to determine how long Slager, 35, will spend in prison after his guilty plea to a federal civil rights violation in the April 2015 shooting death of the 50-year-old Scott. Slager shot Scott five times in the back as he fled the officer on foot, and cellphone video of the shooting was viewed millions of times around the world. The officer, fired after the video became public, testified at his murder trial that he feared for his life and that Scott was trying to grab his stun gun. Last year's initial trial, where Slager had faced a possible life sentence, ended in a hung jury. The chilling video footage helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement that emerged around the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It was seized on by many as vivid proof of what they had been arguing for years: that white officers too often use deadly force unnecessarily against black people. Slager's plea deal saved him a second trial in state court, where prosecutors were set later this year to try again to secure a murder conviction. After the hung jury, many worried that, because the video seemed to some to be an open-and-shut case, they'd never see justice. But it's still possible the former North Charleston police officer — sent back Tuesday afternoon to the jail where he stayed for months after his arrest — will spend the rest of his life in prison if a judge gives him the maximum sentence. No date has been set for that hearing, and it will likely take several months for federal officials to prepare their pre-sentencing report. Federal guidelines provide the framework for sentencing in U.S. District Courts, while ultimate discretion lies with the judge. There are various avenues through which defendants can argue for a lighter sentence, such as lack of prior criminal record or cooperation with authorities. Prosecutors have recommended that Slager be given a slightly lesser sentence because he took responsibility for his acts, saving the government the time and expense of a trial. Rene Josey, a former U.S. Attorney in South Carolina, now in private practice, said Slager likely wouldn't have entered his plea without some degree of certainty the government would be able to convict him. When they're brought, Josey said, federal cases like this one are likely to end in a guilty verdict or plea because the strength of the resources federal authorities are able to put behind their cases. "That's not any slight on the state system," Josey said. "It's just that the state system deals with a lot more, with a lot less resources." From his reading of the plea deal and associated sentencing guidelines, Josey said Slager likely faces an absolute minimum of one year in prison, with a maximum of life. Regardless of where he serves his sentence, Josey said, Slager is likely pleased it'll be in federal, not state, prison. "I'd suspect a cop who shot a black guy would rather be in federal custody and not state custody," he said. "Generally federal facilities are going to be more accommodating and better funded and more comfortable, more or less." The rarity of Slager's case ending in a determination of guilt wasn't lost on Scott's relatives or their attorneys, who spoke with reporters after the hearing. Both Chris Stewart and Justin Bamberg, whose work helped secure a $6.5 million settlement for the Scott family in their lawsuit against North Charleston, said the guilty plea both brings closure for their clients and sets an example for similar cases across the country. "That is what we need to see all across the country, not just when there's video," Bamberg said. Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Reach her at . Read her work at .

Lumumba wins Democratic primary, likely next mayor of Jackson, Miss.

By Kirsten West Savali, The Root

The votes are in. Winning over 55 percent of the vote against eight other candidates, attorney Chokwe Antar Lumumba, 34, son of late Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and community activist Nubia Lumumba, has won the Jackson, Miss., mayoral primary race. Lumumba’s leading opposition, Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham and five-term state Sen. John Horhn (D-Jackson), trailed behind him all night, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber conceded earlier in the evening Tuesday and said that he was throwing his full support behind Lumumba, who is poised to not only continue the radical and transformative work that shaped his parents’ lives—and his own—but to lead Jackson into a revolutionary future. Chokwe Antar Lumumba ran and lost the 2014 mayoral election to then Councilman Yarber. At the time that he announced his candidacy in the wake of his father’s unexpected death after less than a year in office, Lumumba made it clear that he was not running on his family’s name, but on his credentials and commitment to his people and the city of Jackson as a whole. Upon losing the close race, Lumumba wrote these powerful words: A great man once said, “Our Movement is not measured by the size of the crowd. ... But by the size of our revolutionary hearts.” That man’s name is Chokwe Lumumba. Tonight, I stand proudly with each of you. I stand proudly knowing that we fought this battle with integrity, compassion, selflessness, hope & most of all, Love… Love for our great city and its great citizens. We were told by many that we were too young, too inexperienced, too progressive- for City Hall, perhaps… But not for the City of Jackson. I’d submit to you that the only thing we are too young or too progressive for is believing that our work stops with the vote… It most certainly does not. Our goal is to work to make Jackson Rise for all of our citizens…not just some. With that being said, The People’s Mission continues… It continues and it does not stop for us...Free The Land! FREE the Land! FREE the Land! For the Work…We do for the people…Did not stop today. WE, will continue to rise as a city together. I love you and I thank you…Jackson rises…Together we rise!” Lumumba is managing partner of Lumumba & Associates and a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tuskegee University in 2005 and earned his juris doctorate and a certificate in sports and entertainment law from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston. Lumumba is a founding member of the Mississippi Human Rights Collective, co-organizing the “Stand Up to Take It Down” rally at the state Capitol to support the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi state flag. He currently serves as the media representative of the Coalition for Economic Justice and was instrumental in co-authoring “The People’s Platform.” Lumumba will face off against a field of candidates—including Republican primary winner Jason D. Wells; independents Jaclyn Mask, Gwen Ward Osborne Chapman and Kenneth Swarts; and Libertarian Corinthian Sanders—in the general election June 6, but he is assumed by many energized and hopeful Jackson citizens to be the city’s next mayor. Jackson is rising.

Still growing – TSD Women of Excellence Awards Celebration at 10-year mark

By Bernal E. Smith, II

Ten years ago, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) proclaimed to Greater Memphis that the contributions and achievements of black women in our community had for too long gone under recognized and celebrated. We declared that we would take the lead in remedying that problem. TSD introduced a platform, our Women of Excellence (WOE) Awards Celebration, to solicit input from our readership and the community-at-large to identify, aggregate and celebrate the individual and collective contributions of black women, 50 at a time. With the addition of this year’s class, 500 women are now part of a unique assembly of high achievers and bold contributors to the well being of our community. The members of the 2017 WOE Class join the ranks of previous honorees that have left indelible marks of accomplishment, contribution, service and sacrifice upon our city. They possess character, unselfish valor, commitment and purpose of deed and effort. They are intentional in their daily walk doing the right things because they’re simply the right things to do. Each year the response from our readership and the community-at-large has gotten more robust. This year we fielded nearly 70 nominations and had the arduous task of narrowing down to the deserving group of women in the 2017 WOE class. We are excited about this year’s honorees and that we already have a great pool of candidates for 2018. I extend my personal appreciation and thanks to all who submitted nominations. With your help, we have identified another incredible group of dynamic women. Each honoree in her own way has contributed to making our community a better place. What are the criteria for the TSD Women of Excellence? In character, action and approach these women portray virtues of excellence, self-confidence, respect and dignity. They are bound by faith and perseverance and when faced with life obstacles and challenges they remain steadfast in the work and values that call them to service. TSD Women of Excellence demonstrate personal strength, possessing influence as well as elegance and generosity with the gifts that have been bestowed upon them. They intrinsically understand, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” We are extremely excited about this opportunity to recognize and honor such a distinguished and deserving group of women. This annual spring celebration gives us the chance to say thank you to those who have been consistently committed to the highest principles of servant leadership and positively touching the lives of others. This is a testament to the abundance of talented, committed and visionary African-American women here in the Greater Memphis community. This rich pool of talent and commitment is one of the unique treasures that make Memphis a great city. I am glad that we at The New Tri-State Defender can take the lead in acknowledging their contributions to the growth and betterment of our community. On behalf of our board of directors and the entire team at TSD, I say thanks to our sponsors – Macy’s, FedEx and AT&T. Your generous support helps make our publication and this awards brunch more dynamic and engaging each year. Thanks also to those who purchased tickets, tables and ads. Your support is greatly appreciated. And to each person who is not yet a subscriber to The New Tri-State Defender, I invite you to join our family of subscribed readers. Your purchase will support us in meeting our mission to inform, inspire and elevate the quality of life for those audiences we serve. Join me in congratulating the Class of 2017 Women of Excellence! I am confident that after reading the individual biographies you will be more motivated and excited about the future of our community and inspired to join us and our honorees in taking The New Tri-State Defender, Greater Memphis and the entire surrounding area to new heights.

BLACK PRESS EXCLUSIVE: Talking education with Bill Cosby

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire

Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, have given untold millions of dollars to colleges and universities over the years, and promoting education for African Americans has been a hallmark of the comedian’s legendary career. In an exclusive interview with the Black Press, Cosby shared why education has remained an important part of his life’s mission. When he entered Temple University as a freshman, Cosby’s low SAT scores placed him in remedial English, he said. “In this beginning of my new life, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. After reading the books assigned to me, I noticed that what was missing were my experiences and I felt in my heart and mind that I needed to put to paper my personal experiences,” Cosby said. “Hence, my first piece from the assignment, ‘Write About the First Time You Ever Did Something.’” Cosby said his family ate in the kitchen and he kept his books and pencils in his mother’s dining room. A pencil sharpener hung on the wall. “(The pencil sharpener) was allowed to be drilled into the wall in my mother’s $5,000 house, because I was in college,” said Cosby. Cosby said that when he sat down at his mother’s dining room table, he rejected the subject of all of his other firsts –first touchdown, first kiss, first whipping – and he began to write about the first time that he pulled his own tooth. Cosby said that, at school one day, a professor entered the classroom, where whites made up 97 percent of the class, and announced, “I want you all to hear this, because this is the kind of thing I am looking for.” The professor read his paper to the rest of the class. “I got an A-plus,” he said. “So, with that success, I remember feeling like I was doing something that I enjoyed, something I saw, something I felt, not about being called a name or being segregated or having some negative play on my color.” The next essay that he wrote was called “Procrastination” or “The Search for The Perfect Point on My Pencil.” The paper chronicled how Cosby didn’t want to get started on the piece, and how he used the pencil sharpener on the No. 2 pencil that had a rose-colored eraser on the end. He kept sharpening the pencil, because he wanted a perfect point. His professor read that paper aloud, too, helping Cosby to understand that he could accomplish great things even without encouragement. “Regarding Black America…we were very seldom acknowledged for doing things that are identifiable as commonalities amongst all races, cultures and religions ... and humanity, worldwide,” Cosby said. “There are millions of success stories and all of them speak to the parents or guardians and their love and what they want for their children. Many parents or guardians have the ability to teach their children and guide them towards education.” Cosby continued: “When a child cannot understand something and a parent or guardian sits to help that child, the child will move from disliking learning to having a love for learning.” It was his own love for learning that sparked his philanthropic efforts in education. “Since 1965, we have paid for the education of thousands of students; mostly low-income African-American students...and never asked for any repayments from they were not in debt after their graduations,” Cosby said. “Keep in mind that Mrs. Cosby and I aren’t a huge conglomerate; we just wanted to help people to get an education.” Since 2014, when dozens of women accused him of misconduct, colleges and universities have severed their relationship with the star. Spelman College axed a professorship that the Cosbys had funded ($20 million) since the 1980s; Franklin and Marshall College, Goucher College and Tufts University rescinded honorary degrees given to Cosby. He also voluntarily stepped down from his seat on the board of trustees at Temple University. Officials from Temple University and Spelman College declined to comment for this story. While the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress seem indifferent to – some advocates would say opposed to – the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Cosby remains adamant that ESSA and other education laws designed to assist all students are still very important. “I never did like the ‘No Child Left Behind’ law, because people used it to move those children who were behind forward, but the child’s mind was still left behind,” he said. “Once people realize that this is done on purpose, as things are, they realize that it’s up to them to be steadfast and make sure that their child is being educated.” Finally, in recalling schools in his hometown of Philadelphia, Cosby noted that the people who constructed those buildings must have believed in the importance of education. However, an uncaring and unfair educational system has gone against what those builders intended, he said. “I remember how sad many of my neighborhood friends were, that their high schools were shut down, so that only one-fifth of the schools were being used, because the neighborhoods around them were subjected to a system that was intentionally and confusingly complex, thus, effectively discouraging the children from learning,” Cosby said. “Moreover, the system was disrespectful and condescending to the parents; particularly in low-income communities, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

Tennessee passes sign language bill

By Associated Press The Tennessee Legislature has passed a measure that allows students to take American Sign Language and get credit for their foreign language requirements. Sen....

Justin Ford arrested, charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment

By The Associated Press Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford has been arrested after police said he choked his girlfriend at a fast food restaurant on Sunday. Memphis police sai...

WATCH: Former President Barack Obama makes first public remarks

By Lee Eric Smith As promised, former president Barack Obama made his first public remarks since leaving office during a forum with young people at The University of Chicago on Mond...


By Karanja A. Ajanaku, [email protected]

The sign draped outside still says, “The Future Home of ServiceMaster.” So, going inside of the long-empty building that once was Memphis’ downtown showcase mall required a hardhat. There were plenty available, as were vests with laminated stripes, when Mayor Jim Strickland and several other guests toured the much-prized renovation project on Wednesday morning. “A lot of work has gone into this thing and we’re not even half way done with it,” the ServiceMaster guide said. “Phase one kicked off a couple of months ago…(During) … phase two …we’ll be doing construction until the end of the year.” Gone are all of the shops, businesses, sights and sounds that were Peabody Place in its all-too brief heyday. Construction workers busied themselves with assorted tasks, only momentarily pausing for the touring observers. “I thought it was fantastic,” Strickland said after taking in all the info about what has been done, what used to be where and what is to come. “Two years ago, I don’t know that anyone in Memphis could have envisioned what to do with this large, empty mall. Now it’s being transformed into a very cool office space that’s bringing 1,200 jobs downtown.” With ongoing and rising concerns being expressed about minority participation in local construction projects, Strickland was asked if he were satisfied with such participation in the endeavor. Said Strickland: “I’m told when they release the numbers that we will be pleased.” (Photos: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

TSU scholarship recipients say ‘thank you’ to donors

By Emmanuel Freeman, TSU News Service

NASHVILLE – Leona Dunn is finally enjoying college life and stressing less about school fees. She is grateful. “My first year in college I paid over $1,200 out of pocket from what I saved up over the summer to help me stay in college,” said Dunn, a junior communications major at Tennessee State University. That experience was the beginning of some tough times for the Omaha, Neb. native who had just come out of foster care. She was barely able to keep up with the payment plan she had worked up, which made registering for the next semester even more difficult. “My balance was still off,” Dunn said. “I had no one back home to help. And coming from foster care, the system doesn’t exactly just give children owned by the state full ride scholarships to anywhere even if they had an exceptional GPA and ACT score like I did.” But thanks to some “nice people” and “great organizations,” Dunn is now worrying less about tuition and focusing more on her academics. She received financial assistance from the Links, and the Tennessee State University Women’s Center. “With all of this help I had to come up with only $200 this year …a huge blessing. I am so grateful,” she said. On April 7, Dunn, and fellow students who received help through scholarship donations, had a chance to say, “Thank You.” It was the 6th Annual Scholarship Appreciation Program and Reception, or “Donor Appreciation,” held in Kean Hall. The event, organized by the TSU Foundation, allows scholarship recipients to meet face-to-face with donors to thank them for their generosity. TSU President Glenda Glover said scholarship donors help the university stay on the path of excellence by ensuring that students receive quality education through their gifts. “Because of you, our students are able to matriculate,” Glover said. “They get to come, they get to stay and they get to graduate because of your dollars. We are just so grateful.” This year, nearly 280 people, including students, donors and special guests attended the program featuring songs, recognition of donors and a special toast. Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, vice president for Research and Institutional Advancement, provided remarks. Eloise Abernathy Alexis, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, said the program gave the students a “unique opportunity” to interact with the donors. “We send out postcards, letters and notes to donors to show our appreciation for their gifts, but this is the moment when donors and students really get to come together face to face to give and receive appreciation,” Alexis said. Dr. Darlene Harris-Vasser, assistant director of Donor Relations, coordinates the reception each year. She said it is exciting to see the joy on donors’ faces when they meet the students in person. “They are just so elated to see all of those students speaking about their educational goals, future plans and how their (donors’) contributions are making it possible for them to achieve their goals,” Harris-Vasser said. The Women’s Center, one of the donors that offered Dunn financial assistance, develops and sponsors programming that enhances the skills of women and assists in their development as scholars and professionals. According to Seanne Wilson, director of the center, Dunn approached the center to inquire about assistance. “As Leona is a huge supporter of the Women’s Center and its events, the center was happy to assist her with the request,” Wilson said. In appreciation, Dunn wants to give back to help others. “Hopefully I want to have my own endowed scholarship when I become an alumna to help others and give back for the help I received,” she said. (For information on how to support the TSU Foundation or make a scholarship donation, go to