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February 2022

Muhammad Aziz And Khalil Islam:  Exonerated In The Murder of Malcolm X

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On November 28, 2021, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, two of the three men convicted of the murder of Malcolm X were exonerated. At the time, Aziz was known as Norman 3X Butler. Khalil Islam was known as Thomas 15x Johnson.  A twenty-two-month investigation by the Manhattan district attorney determined that the two men were wrongfully convicted. Muhammad was 83 years old at the time of his exoneration. Khalil Islam was deceased at the time of the exoneration.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. In 1966 Aziz, Islam, and Thomas Hagan were convicted of the murder by a jury. Both Aziz and Islam maintained their innocence. Hagan (also known as Talmadge Hayer) reportedly told the court during the trial that Islam and Aziz were not involved in the murder of Malcolm X.  There was also no physical evidence that was ever found linking either Aziz or Islam to the murder. In 1978, Hagan named four other co-conspirators in the murder of Malcolm X.  However, the judge at the time rejected a motion to vacate convictions for Aziz and Islam. 

Aziz was incarcerated for twenty years and subsequently spent 55 years living under the weight of the false accusation and being labeled as the convicted murderer of an iconic civil rights leader. Aziz filed suit against the State of New York in December 2021 for damages of at least $20 million due to his wrongful conviction. Legal counsel representing Aziz also filed documents that indicate a possible $40 million lawsuit against the City of New York and other individuals. Similar filings are being expected from Islam’s estate as well.

During the court hearing vacating the conviction of Aziz and Islam, New York District Attorney Cy Vance said the trial of Aziz and Islam was not fair. Vance further stated that the New York District Attorney’s office investigation revealed that crucial evidence from the FBI and NYPD was not given to the defense. Following the exoneration hearing, Vance said, “I apologize on behalf of our nation’s law enforcement for this decades-long injustice which has eroded public faith in institutions that are designed to guarantee equal protection under the law.”

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The Historic Supreme Court Nomination Of Ketanji Brown Jackson

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President Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer is no surprise. Jackson currently sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She is the first black woman and the first public defender nominated to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she is expected to influence the court’s Democratic-appointed justices further to the left. At age 51, if appointed, she would likely serve for decades. The proverbial jury is still out just how liberal she will be. Regardless of her leanings, the court will continue to be dominated by its current six-justice conservative majority. However, if confirmed, she is likely to make the court more polarized in its perspective. Her background would suggest that she is expected to be even more liberal than Justice Breyer.

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Aline Black Hicks: Black Educator Who Fought For Pay Equity

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Aline E. Black Hicks was born in 1906 in Norfolk, Virginia. She attended Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State University). Hicks then began working in the local school system as a science teacher in 1924. She later obtained a master of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1935. At the time, teaching salaries for black educators were significantly lower than that of white teachers. Hicks volunteered to bring suit against the State of Virginia to pursue higher pay for black educators. According to the petition, black high school teachers received a minimum annual salary of $699 up to a maximum annual salary of $1,105. In comparison, white high school teachers received a minimum annual salary of $970 up to a maximum of $1,900. 

The suit resulted from The Norfolk Teachers Association and the Virginia State Teachers Association joining forces with the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People to challenge the pay inequity between Black and White teachers as being a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Thurgood Marshall, who would later become a supreme court justice, was one of the attorneys representing Hicks. The case was dismissed in 1939. An appeal was then filed on Hicks’s behalf. She was fired by the district in retaliation for filing suit. Her appeal was denied because she was no longer an employee. Hicks moved out of the area following her termination. 

Undeterred, the legal team sought another black teacher willing to bring suit. Melvin O. Alston took Hicks’s place as a plaintiff. A new suit was filed in 1940. This case was also dismissed. Another appeal was then filed. On appeal, the federal appeals court ruled against the City of Norfolk; siting that its policies were discriminatory. The City refused to increase the salaries of its black teachers and appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that teacher pay was protected by the fourteenth amendment and sent the case back to the lower courts. 

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Travers J. Bell, Jr.: Cofounder Of 1st Black-Owned Firm Accepted As A Member Of The New York Stock Exchange

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Born in 1941, Travers J. Bell Jr. was a pioneer and trailblazer in the world of investing. He grew up in poverty on the south side of Chicago. Recognizing his ambition, his family encouraged him to pursue higher education at a time when most Black people were unable to do so. Bell earned attended Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and New York Institute of Finance, earning degrees from both institutions.   

He began his career working as a messenger at the brokerage firm Dempsey-Tegeler and Company, where his father worked in the mailroom. Being in this environment ignited a passion in Bell. His passion and drive didn’t go unnoticed. Impressed by Bell, Dempsey-Tegeler cofounder Jerome F. Tegeler began to mentor him. At age 23, Bell was promoted to Operations Manager at Dempsey-Tegeler. Bell left Dempsey-Tegeler following his graduation and became Chief Operating Officer at Fusz Schmelzle. There, he continued honing his skills in sales and trading. During this time, Bell began to dream and strategize about owning his own firm. 

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The John Henryism Effect: Exploring How Racial Oppression Creates Adverse Health Outcomes

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The legend of John Henry takes place in the 1800s. Henry is a Black American railroad worker pitted in a contest of man against machine. His job was to hammer metal rods into rocks to prepare them for explosion. A steam-powered drill had been developed to replace the manual hammering process typically done by railroad workers. Henry accepted a challenge to prove that he could “beat” the machine; as it threatened his livelihood and that of other railroad workers. John Henry beat the machine despite the odds but later died from the stress and exhaustion of overexerting himself. His story has been chronicled in books and films.

Epidemiologist Sherman James coined the term John Henryism to describe adverse health outcomes and disparities experienced by Black Americans due to racial oppression. James initially became interested in studying the possible correlation between adverse health outcomes and racial oppression in the 1970s.   During that time, he encountered a black man named John Henry Martin. His life paralleled John Henry’s in many ways, including sharing the same first and middle name. Martin was a farmer who battled racial oppression and inequities in the rural south of the U.S. during the 20th century. He was born into an impoverished family. His formal education ended after second grade when he began working to help support his family. Martin taught himself to read and write. By the time he was 40 years old, he owned 75 acres of land in North Carolina. Martin worked tirelessly to pay off his farm loan debt within 5 years. Though he accomplished his goal of owning property and paying off his farm loan; the stress significantly impacted his health. By the time he reached his 50’s he had suffered from high blood pressure, arthritis, and peptic ulcer disease. The peptic ulcer disease was so significant 40% of his stomach was surgically removed.

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Internalized Oppression vs. Appropriated Oppression

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When people are oppressed they can come to believe (internalize) the stereotypes, negativity, and myths about their identity communicated by the dominant group; at times even embracing the oppressive treatment as being normal, deserved, or inevitable.  If an oppressed person begins to believe the inferiority imposed upon them by the dominant they have internalized that oppression.  In recent years, there has been a shift away from referring to oppression as “internalized” because it places the blame of oppression on the marginalized individual or group rather than the dominant group. 

Psychologist, Dr. Kira Banks has sparked our interest in thinking about oppression as being appropriated rather than internalized. This perspective helps us see internalized oppression NOT as an internal process but rather an external one.  Appropriation takes place when someone adopts or borrows something from another culture or group.  Thinking about oppression as being appropriated presents those experiencing oppression with a choice.  Recognizing that we have a choice gives us power! Rather than just accepting the views of the dominant group, appropriation presents us with the opportunity to decide if we want to adopt or take on the ideas or expectations of the dominant group as being representative of our personal identities, abilities, or experiences. 

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Lloyd Hall: Trailblazing Chemist And Pioneer In Food Preservation

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Black food chemist Lloyd Augustus Hall was born in Elgin, Illinois, in 1894. Attending high school in Aurora, IL, he was one of only five black students at his high school. Hall graduated with honors in 1912. In 1914, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Northwestern University. In 1916 received a Master of Science degree from the University of Chicago. He married Myrrhene Newsome on September 23, 1919. She was a teacher from Macomb, IL. The couple had two children. Following graduation, He was offered a position by Western Electric Company through a telephone interview. However, when he showed up for his first day of work, he was told, “We don’t take niggers”. Hall then interviewed and was hired by the City of Chicago as a chemist. He would go on to work for several organizations including the U.S. government and United Nations. The majority of his 34-year career was spent at Griffith Laboratories. 

Hall developed methods to keep food fresh while maintaining flavor. Many of the chemicals still used to preserve food today resulted from his pioneering research. Before his groundbreaking discoveries, food preservation was challenging, and the methods used often significantly altered the taste and flavor of foods. The most common food preservatives consisted of a mixture of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. This combination often made foods bitter and unpalatable. One of Hall’s most successful inventions addressed this problem. In 1932, he developed a variety of complex chemical salts that could be used as a preservative without negatively impacting the taste of food. This discovery prompted his employer at the time, Griffith Laboratories, to open a factory dedicated to producing his chemical salt compounds. He also invented processes to sterilize spices, other food materials, and pharmaceuticals still being used today. He also developed an innovative method to preserve meats known as “flash-drying”

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Yes! Black People Can Get Skin Cancer

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Time to spill the tea on skin cancer! If you have skin, you can get skin cancer. 3 Million+ people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. While it’s true that black people have a lower risk of developing skin cancer, it is also true that they are more likely to have lower survival rates when they are diagnosed. The Skin Cancer Foundation defines skin cancer as “the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.” The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).

People of all skin tones get skin cancer. And, yes, you can get skin cancer even without having prolonged sun exposure or sunburn. Skin cancer is often diagnosed in Black people at later stages. Even when found at an early stage (before it had spread), on average, statistics show that Black people don’t survive as long as White people. Later diagnosis can be deadly when a person has the type of skin cancer known as melanoma. Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers but is more dangerous because it can spread to other parts of the body if untreated. In general, any skin cancer can be challenging to treat in later stages. Fortunately, most skin cancers, including melanoma, can be cured with early detection.

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Exploring The Impact Of Special Education Disparities On Black Students

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Today we are sharing some special education data. The data highlights disparities experienced by black students in the United States receiving special education services. Black students in the U.S. with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of school than white students with disabilities. They also face harsher discipline than white students with disabilities. 

Black students with disabilities are more likely to be identified with emotional or intellectual disabilities or emotional disturbances than all students with disabilities. The significance in the identification of disparities is highest for students with “subjective” disabilities According to the National Center For Learning Disabilities, “Subjective disabilities are those for which non-subjective tests are not available, meaning that identification depends on the professional judgment—and potentially the biases—of the assessors.

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