Tri-State Defender National Stories


Oklahoma cop to ’60 Minutes:’ Race didn’t factor into shooting of Terence Crutcher

By Justin Juozapavicius, Associated Press A white Oklahoma police officer charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man last year says the man's race had no...

Meet the Navy’s first female African-American chief warrant officer

By Kelley D. Evans, The Undefeated

The following first appeared on ESPN's The Undefeated. In 1997, Cleveland native Summer Levert began her military service in the Army National Guard. Now she’s the first black female boatswain’s mate in the U.S. Navy to hold the position of chief warrant officer. “I joined the Navy to get out of Cleveland,” Levert said. “I worked two full-time jobs and went to school part time. I needed a change because I was headed down a dead-end street. I followed my twin sister [Dawn Greene] into the Navy.” She earned the rank of boatswain’s mate — an officer who is the subject-matter expert on all major seamanship functions and the maintenance of topside gear such as small-boat operations, supervising anchoring, mooring, replenishment at sea, towing, transferring of personnel and cargo, and the operation and maintenance of ship’s boats — in October 2000 shortly after she enlisted. Levert endured some challenges along the way. She worked her way up the ranks to chief petty officer in 2011. But she wanted more, so she set her sights on becoming a chief warrant officer. In 2014, she applied to the chief warrant officer program and was selected. “I was shocked when I found out, and I still am shocked,” Levert said. “Since I was selected, there have been a few more after me, so I think the Navy finally got it. The Navy focuses on building you up physically and mentally, but they also make sure they educate you and keep your mind sharp. I was 21 when I enlisted, older than my peers. I had to keep them motivated a lot of times because it was their first time away from home.” Levert recalls her first few days in the service. “I thought I’d made a huge mistake,” she said. “I was treated like garbage because I was a female. The first thing my chief told me was I was not going to sit around and get pregnant. And if I did, he would send me straight to a ship. Then he told me to go clean his toilet so he could take a crap.” When achieving success, there are always obstacles to overcome. Some obstacles are harder than others, but Levert continued to use her family, friends and mentors for inspiration to get her where she is today. “I am inspired by my uncle, who started his career out as a hull technician in the Navy,” Levert explained. “He is now a rocket scientist. My mom was a huge inspiration as well because she was a nurse in the Army Reserves while I was growing up. My twin sister inspired me to join the Navy because she enjoyed her job, traveled often, and was happy.” Levert said she never aspired to be a first at anything. “When I was a junior sailor, I was always told that I’d never make it in this field because it is male-dominated,” she explained. “When I did make it, I thought that because the year was 2014 and the Navy so large that there had been a black female before me out there somewhere.” Levert said she was always told that women in the military use their sexuality to get ahead, which she admits is the biggest misconception people have about black women or women in general in the Navy or armed forces. The hardest part of military life for Levert is being away from her family for long periods of time during her world travels. “I’ve traveled to many places while in the Navy,” she said. “A few places that stand out are Spain, Honduras, Greece, Panama, the Bahamas, and Dubai. My favorite port was Panama. The weather was warm, and the food was delicious and cheap.” She’s never been on the front line of combat, but she’s been deployed to combat zones a few times. She’s currently deployed in a combat zone today. While at sea, she thinks about her favorite things, such as gardening. “My favorite thing to do when I’m not away from home is gardening. I grow fresh fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers. I love to see the fruits of my labor, literally,” said Levert. “When I retire, I want to have a huge garden and have nothing to worry about but pests and watering.” The best piece of advice Levert’s ever received is to never quit. It comes from a quote by Harriet Tubman. “My favorite quote is: ‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember: you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’ ” Levert is assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde as the ship’s bos’n. The ship’s captain depends on her to execute major seamanship tasks safely and maintain external upkeep of the ship. “Bos’n is very humble. She believes in hard work and effort and only desires to be measured by her character and deed,” said Lt. Alvin Weidetz III, USS Mesa Verde’s deck department head. “Woe betides the sailor, junior or senior, that steps out of line or throws safety to the wind. But at the end of every evolution, Bos’n will count heads ensuring all are safe and sound, laud each and everyone for their efforts and encourage their improvements to do better.” In December 2015, she received a plaque of recognition for her service from her hometown by U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio). Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.

Texas Teen Ebony Banks, loses battle to cancer four days after meeting Beyoncé

By Breanna Edwards, The Root

Ebony Banks, a Texas teenager who was fighting stage 4 cancer, died Sunday just four days after being able to meet with her idol, superstar Beyoncé Knowles. Ebony was undergoing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston when she died, KHOU reports. The Alief Independent School District of Houston released the news of her death Sunday, and a candlelight vigil was held in the teen’s honor at LeRoy Crump Stadium, which is owned by the school district. Video of the vigil showed students singing Beyoncé songs and waving candles. Ebony was a Beyoncé stan and always dreamed of meeting the star. So her classmates at Alief Hastings High School took it upon themselves to organize through social media—which really can be amazing sometimes—and started the hashtag #EbobMeetsBeyonce, which went viral. Beyoncé’s attention was drawn to the hashtag, and last Wednesday, the singer called Ebony via FaceTime, and the two were able to chat. In a video of the interaction, Ebony can be heard saying “I love you, Beyoncé,” and Beyoncé responds, “I love you.”

John Lewis helped squash ‘Trumpcare’ bill

By Clinton Yates, The Undefeated

In every presidential administration, there’s a moment where, specific partisanship aside, you can point to when you look back on things and say, That’s when things got real. On Friday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), delivered the kind of speech on the House floor that you’ll instantly want to watch again after you’ve seen it once. TL;DR: This ain’t happening on my watch. “My heart breaks for the disabled, for women, for seniors, and working families,” Lewis said. “My heart aches for those who are living paycheck to paycheck. My heart mourns for innocent, little children whose very life depends on if their families can pay the bills. This is the right and wrong of it. This is the heart and soul of the matter. We cannot abandon our principles. Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget our values.” The bill never had the votes and now the White House is scrambling on how to spin this. The Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” is still the problem, apparently. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said after “Trumpcare” was pulled. Lewis is an American treasure, but we all already knew that. Every once in a while, he reminds us emphatically why that’s the case.

Many governors welcome demise of GOP health care bill

By Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press Governors of both parties had warned Congress for weeks that the Republican health care bill threatened to saddle their states with big costs a...

Black Lives Matter groups joining forces with wage activists

By Errin Haines Whack, Associated Press A cluster of Black Lives Matter groups and the organization leading the push for a $15-an-hour wage are joining forces to combine the strugg...

Twitter trolls Trump meeting with Congressional Black Caucus

By Lynette Holloway, NewsOne

The executive committee of the Congressional Black Caucus is set to meet Wednesday with President Donald Trump, who repeatedly lied about the country’s first Black President Barack Obama, including accusing him of unlawfully wiretapping his campaign headquarters during the election, and sparking the birther movement. That’s not all. He famously slow-walked his denouncement of former KKK leader David Duke, who supported his election, among other things. What will he discuss with the CBC? Hmm, should we ask April Ryan, whom Trump assumed earlier this year was friends with the entire caucus. Why? Well, Ryan is a Black journalist who serves as White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, and all Black folks know each other, according to Trump’s doctrine. (Insert cackle here, kee kee kee, because you know Black folks do that, too. ) Will they discuss the fact that Trump was likely trying to deflect what FBI Director James Comey revealed this week that his office, not President Obama, was investigating Russia and Trump’s associates as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. Meanwhile, Democratic CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said leaders plan to push Trump on several areas of interest to African-American voters, including policing, health care and his fiscal plan, reports The Associated Press. “His budget is contrary to African-American interests in a number of ways, and it’s our role as policymakers to call him out on it,” Richmond tells The AP. But let Black Twitter tell it, Trump is up to no good, seeking only to placate all voters, whom he was elected to serve. Read tweets here

Black millennials feel very hopeful about future, study says

By Clarissa Hamlin, NewsOne

A new study released on Monday revealed that Black millennials are more optimistic about the future than White, Asian and Hispanic millennials, reports The Huffington Post. From The Huffington Post: Data from a collaborative study conducted by the University of Texas and Hispanic advertising agency Richards/Lerma released on Monday reveals that black millennials are most optimistic about their future when compared to Hispanic, Asian and white millennials. The study, titled “Millennials Deconstructed,” also has other fascinating findings about where millennials ― young adults between the ages of 18-34 ― who make up America’s most racially diverse generation in history, stand when it comes to having faith in the American dream and their ability to succeed in the future. …Pointing to the role of black activists in calling out systemic racism and white privilege, researchers say some may interpret this as “showing disrespect for America, apathy, playing the victim [and/or] asking for handouts.” Instead, rather than reporting feelings of neglect or disrespect, 83 percent of black millennials say they are proud to be an American. And although black millennials (67 percent) are closely tied with Hispanic millennials (66 percent) in being less likely to say they are satisfied with life when compared to Asian (71 percent) and white (71 percent) millennials, most black millennials (61 percent) hold on to a sense of hope and optimism rather than feelings of apathy. “This suggests their vocalization of injustice isn’t at odds with respect for their nation,” the study says of black millennials. “In fact, it’s possible their motivation to speak up is because of their national pride, because they hold their country to a high standard.” This University of Texas study comes after the release of a survey from the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago revealing that most millennials believe Donald Trump is an illegitimate president, reports Newsweek.

The 10: These African American women are changing the face of tech

By Sherrell Dorsey, The Root

We’re always hearing about the lack of diversity in the technology industry, especially when it comes to black women. While their numbers may be small, black women are doing big things in the tech world. From leading research and engineering at Google to directing robotics and autonomous vehicle programs at top-tier universities, a black woman’s work is at the helm. In honor of Women’s History Month, The Root collaborated with Google’s CS Education in Media team to speak with 10 black women in computer science and engineering who have been spearheading teams at notable technology companies for the last several years. It’s time they got their moment in the spotlight. To view The 10, click here to access the list via The Root:

Man gets murder conviction tossed after 32 years in prison

By theGrio

Andrew Wilson has been in prison for 32 years, but on Wednesday, an LA judge tossed out his murder conviction and ordered that he be released “as soon as possible.” Wilson had been convicted of a 1984 stabbing of 21-year-old Christopher Hanson, but in revisiting the case, prosecutors said that Wilson did not get a “fundamentally fair trial,” reports Fox 11. Deputy District Attorney Etty Jerez noted that “cumulative errors,” including officers pressuring witnesses and impeachment evidence not being turned over, were made leading up to Wilson’s conviction. “Numerous due process violations that recently came to light show conclusively that Mr. Wilson did not receive a fair trial,” his attorney, Paula Mitchell, told reporters following the trial. “Mr. Wilson is elated. He is so glad this is finally over.” However, while the district attorney’s office stated that it would not re-file its charges against Wilson and noted that it was “explicitly clear” that Wilson was “denied a fundamentally fair trial,” the office said that it did not feel Wilson was “factually innocent.” To determine that, a hearing is scheduled for May, as Wilson would need to be declared “factually innocent” in order to get compensation from the state for his imprisonment. In the meantime, Wilson was expected to be released from jail on Thursday.