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Arsonist Sets Fire to Church of Prominent Bay Area Pastor 

For Immediate Release

Arsonist Sets Fire to Church of Prominent Bay Area Pastor 

Pastor to Hold Press Conference on July 30 at 10:30 a.m. local time

BERKELEY, CA — More than a year after a string of arsons obliterated Black churches in Louisiana, the congregation of a prominent Bay area pastor and racial justice advocate has been targeted by an arsonist. Pastor Michael McBride, who leads the LIVE FREE gun violence prevention campaign and who co-founded the Black Church PAC, received a call from one of his ministers the morning of July 29. The minister found burned trash bins and property damage to the church building. McBride, who has traveled the country challenging white supremacy, had just hung a Black Lives Matter banner from his church, The Way Church. Hours later the church was set afire. Photos show the aftermath of the blaze; trash cans set afire, the side of the church and the concrete in the surrounding area charred by fire. Pastor McBride will host a press conference outside the church on Thursday, July 30 at 10:30 a.m. PST. Persons outside of Berkeley, can join the press conference via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IiDgQZnCQB2L0eXr9NSWnw.

A neighbor reported seeing a suspicious person setting fire in the rear of the building. He and his roommate called the local fire department. Firefighters and police officers arrived and extinguished the blaze, yet failed to notify the pastor or other church officials.

McBride is now considering whether his decades long work challenging police brutality, registering people of faith to vote, or speaking out against white supremacy irritated the suspected arsonist, or whether they were angered by the Black Lives Matter sign hanging from the church. He is also questioning why the police department did not contact anyone regarding the fire at his church, opting instead to slide a card under the front door.

“For decades church fires were used as a means of terrorizing Black clergy and the Black community. I guess in Berkeley, it’s not something worthy of special attention by law enforcement officials” said Pastor Michael McBride, campaign director of the LIVE FREE gun violence prevention campaign and co-founder of the Black Church PAC. “Regardless of the intentions of the suspect, we will not be silenced or intimidated. Were it not for an alert and courageous neighbor, my entire church could have been burned to the ground.”

WHO:            Pastor Michael McBride, The Way Christian Church

WHAT:          Press Conference re Attempted Church Burning

WHEN:          Thursday, July 30 at 10:30 a.m. PT

WHERE:       1305 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA (Zoom for persons outside of Berkeley)

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IiDgQZnCQB2L0eXr9NSWnw

 

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Justice Roundtable Letter to Congressional Leaders

May 5, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader

United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Schumer,  Minority Leader

United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker  

United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader                                                   United States House of Representatives,  Washington, DC 20515

(Transmitted by Email) 

RE: Adopt provisions to protect, release, and support reentry of incarcerated people in the COVID-19 response package.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

 

The undersigned organizations urge you to include in the COVID-19 response package under development now provisions to protect, release, and support reentry of incarcerated people.  In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals incarcerated in and working at U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers face a public health crisis due to existing unsanitary and overcrowded conditions of confinement. For the past two months, medical and public health experts have called for reductions in incarceration levels to limit overcrowding and protect those individuals in custody who are at high risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

While selected releases have occurred at the federal, state and local level, the actions have been insufficient.  Attached, please find for your review a short summary of specific recommendations for Congress to undertake to accomplish these imperatives.

 

Incarcerated people and correctional staff remain uniquely vulnerable to infection and failure to reduce incarceration rates overall have resulted in COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in correctional facilities nationwide. To fully respond to COVID-19, Congress must take immediate action to protect individuals who are incarcerated and working at correctional facilities; incentivize states and localities to reduce the number of incarcerated people and ensure that federal and tribal facilities do the same; and support safe reentry upon release.

 

If Congress does not respond to the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks at incarceration and detention facilities, it will increase the damage that COVID-19 will wreak on countless lives, impacting families and communities nationwide.  It also will prevent the U.S. from fully overcoming the domestic COVID-19 epidemic as individuals both working at and incarcerated in correctional facilities continue to travel between these facilities and the community without support.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Justice Roundtable Reentry Working Group Co-Chair Jenny Collier at jcollier@colliercollective.org, Justice Roundtable Sentencing Reform Working Group Co-Chair Kara Gotsch at kgotsch@sentencingproject.org, or Justice Roundtable Convener Nkechi Taifa at nkechi@thetaifagroup.com.

 

Sincerely,

 

ACLU

African American Juvenile Justice Project

Akron Votes

Aleph Institute

Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare

Black Family Summit

Braxton Institute

Bread for the World

Campaign for Youth Justice

CAN-DO Foundation

Center for American Progress

Center for Disability Rights

Center for Law and Social Policy

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

Coalition for Juvenile Justice

Community Catalyst

Community Healing Network, Inc.

Criminalization of Poverty Project at IPS

CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants)

CURE-DC

Demand Justice

Drug Policy Alliance

Equal Justice USA

Greater Akron Canton Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers

Health in Justice Action Lab, Northeastern University

Heartland Alliance

HIRE Network

Human Rights for Kids

Innocence Project

Just Futures Law

Justice For Families

Justice Policy Institute

Justice Strategies

Juvenile Justice Coalition

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Legal Action Center

Little Piece of Light

Mental Health America

NAACP

National Action Network

National Association for Rural Mental Health

National Association of Black Social Workers

National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Association of Social Workers

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Council of Churches

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter

National Crittenton

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

National Equality Action Team

National Juvenile Defender Center

National Low Income Housing Coalition

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Operation Restoration

Parent Watch

Pathways to Reentry Committee of the ReThink Justice Coalition

ReThink Justice Coalition

Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Safer Foundation

StoptheDrugWar.org

Strategies for Youth

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

The Association of Black Psychologists, Inc.

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

The Daniel Initiative

The Justice Roundtable

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Sentencing Project

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Treatment Communities of America

Tzedek Association

Union for Reform Judaism

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

 

 

 

 

 

Until Freedom to Host Direct Action Urging Louisville Police to Arrest the Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor

For Immediate Release

Until Freedom Will Host Direct Action Urging Louisville Police to Arrest the Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor

The Grassroots Law Project to Provide Legal Observers and Bail for Demonstrators

LOUISVILLE, KY – The Grassroots Law Project and Until Freedom today announced a direct action in Louisville, KY designed to spur criminal charges of the six officers responsible for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, an essential worker killed on March 13 as she slept in her home. The action is sponsored by Until Freedom, an intersectional social justice organization rooted in the leadership of diverse people of color to address systemic and racial injustice.

“The Grassroots Law Project is here to provide legal observers who will record the demonstration, monitor for civil rights violations and help protect protesters from the deadliest police culture in the world,” said Attorney Lee Merritt, legal director of the Grassroots Law Project.

WHO:             Until Freedom, Grassroots Law Project

WHAT:          Direct Action Urging Criminal Charges for the Officers Who Killed Breonna Taylor

WHEN:          Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

WHY:             The purpose of the action is to urge Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the Louisville Police Department to arrest and charge the six officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s killing.

Background:

In the middle of the night on March 13, Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police during the execution of a drug raid. An aspiring nurse, she had dedicated her whole life to serving others. She had worked as an EMT in Louisville when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and reportedly worked at two hospitals to save lives in her community. She survived repeated exposure to COVID-19 only to have her life cut short by police violence. None of the police involved in the killing have been arrested or charged.

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Contact: Jennifer Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

 

New Jersey Division of Investment Official Accused of Contacting Blueprint Business Relationships After Racial Discrimination, Retaliation and Fraud Lawsuit Filed

For Immediate Release

NEWARK, NJ – Less than three weeks after the State of New Jersey was named in a federal racial discrimination, retaliation and fraud lawsuit, information has once again been received regarding retaliation by the State of New Jersey against Blueprint Capital Advisors. On June 23, Blueprint Capital Advisors, a Black-owned asset management firm, sued the state of New Jersey, BlackRock Alternative Advisors and Cliffwater LLC alleging racial discrimination, retaliation and fraud. Now, Blueprint received information from a credible source regarding what appears to be attempts to tortiously interfere with Blueprint’s business dealings, allegedly calling the firm’s clients with the intent of getting them to terminate or reduce their relationship with Blueprint. The firm’s legal counsel, Wigdor LLP, sent a cease and desist letter on Friday, July 3 to New Jersey’s counsel.

Attorney Lawrence M. Pearson of Wigdor LLP, wrote in the Cease and Desist letter: “It has come to our attention that senior officials with New Jersey’s Division of Investment (the “DOI”), including DOI Director Corey Amon, have been contacting Blueprint’s other investors for the purpose of tortiously interfering with the Company’s business relationships. From conversations with relevant parties, we are aware that DOI employees have contacted several clients in a transparent and retaliatory attempt to have Chicago Police pull out of its investment with Blueprint. The conduct of the DOI and its representatives is unlawful and inexcusable, and they must cease and desist from these and similar actions immediately. If DOI and its officials (including, but not limited to, Mr. Amon) are somehow still ignorant (which is no excuse or defense) of the fact that Blueprint’s assertion of legal claims and the filing of its lawsuit are legally protected against retaliation by the Defendants, then this letter is their written notice that they must stop such conduct right now. 

To read the full letter, click here.

At its founding, Blueprint developed an innovative investment tool to save public pension funds millions on fees paid to money managers. Blueprint brought FAIR, its highly researched investment tool, to the State of New Jersey. According to the legal complaint filed on June 23, New Jersey initially promised to invest $500 million with Blueprint for its FAIR program. After months of due diligence, Blueprint learned that BlackRock had received Blueprint’s materials and would co-opt its FAIR program. When Blueprint protested, New Jersey officials allegedly told the company that the State wasn’t a fan of doing business with Black-owned or women-owned companies. Blueprint was then met with extreme retaliation by New Jersey state officials who allegedly threatened to redeem their other business with Blueprint, if Blueprint continued to question the decision to co-opt Blueprint’s FAIR program. A link to the full lawsuit is here, and media coverage on the case can be found here.

Contact: Jennifer Farmer, jennifer@spotlightpr.org

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EBONY Magazine Announces Leadership Transition; Willard Jackson to Step Down as CEO

For Immediate Release

NEWARK, NJ – On July 2, 2020, the board of directors of EBONY Magazine agreed to a leadership change and the removal of CEO Willard Jackson Jr. Several weeks ago, the board commissioned an independent inquiry into a number of transactions that Jackson led, and the investigation is ongoing.

“The board of directors individually and collectively understands the legacy and value of EBONY to Black communities globally,” said Jacob Walthour Jr., newly elected chairman of EBONY’s board of directors and co-founder of Blueprint Capital Advisors, a black-owned asset manager. “Founder John H. Johnson conducted himself and EBONY business with a level of class, integrity and honor that has come to define Black professionalism in America. While the board expects that EBONY will always need to adapt its business model to stay relevant, it must never compromise the core values of Mr. Johnson.”

“As we approach EBONY’s 75th anniversary, now more than any other time since the Civil Rights movement, Black people need a medium to express ‘their’ voice and record this historical moment,” said John C. Robinson, an EBONY director. “We are committed to the preservation of this valuable asset to the Black community and being a part of the next 75 years.”

The board of directors will appoint an interim CEO and operating committee. It will continue to assess all structural, managerial and financial facets of the organization with an eye toward amplifying the current calls for economic and racial justice and equality. As part of the board’s engagement, it is prioritizing the payment of delinquent compensation to EBONY employees and expect to make the announcement soon.

Jackson is a partner in CVG Group, which purchased EBONY in 2016. The acquisition was financed by Parkview Capital Credit Inc. (PCC) through a series of loans. In April 2020, Blueprint Capital Advisor took over management from PCC.

Since 1945, EBONY Magazine has chronicled the remarkable achievements of Black people while providing a narrative of the historical greatness of Black culture. EBONY will be 75 years old on Nov. 22, 2020.

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Rachel Noerdlinger rnoerdlinger@mercuryllc.com

Grassroots Law Project and Leading Reform District Attorneys Announce Truth, Justice & Reconciliation Commissions to Address Decades of Harm Caused by Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Overreach

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2020

NEW YORK – Today, the Grassroots Law Project and District Attorneys from Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco announced the formation of local “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commissions in each city. For too long, people in these communities have lacked recourse from police violence and prosecutor overreach. People with power have, as a result, abused it without consequence. Now, people are taking to the street to demand massive, structural change. They are insisting that those who have been marginalized for generations redefine what public safety means and have a voice in how our legal system addresses harms. Their message is resonating, and those with power are listening, recognizing that we must give voice to those who have been subject to racist and deeply harmful practices for years.

The first three local commissions will address the serious trauma inflicted by a legal system that has gone largely unchecked for generations. They will begin as pilot projects that will create a process for District Attorneys and their communities to hear from victims of police and prosecutor misconduct and find ways for those victims to heal. This critical project is at its early stages, and the District Attorneys will begin dialogue with their communities – including persons impacted by police violence – and develop policies and structures to help communities heal from the generational trauma resulting from police violence and racial injustice. Each commission will be responsive to the individualized needs of the community.

When asked why the initiative is being grounded inside of District Attorneys’ offices, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said: “Prosecutors have a special responsibility to promote justice and reconciliation with the communities whose needs have historically been neglected. In San Francisco we are working to not only enact changes and create policies that hold police accountable going forward, but also to build trust with those who have been hurt by the lack of police accountability in the past. We are honored by the opportunity to be part of this initiative to heal the wounds created by police abuse, to empower impacted communities, and to seek real justice for all.”

“Each Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will develop processes and plans to allow persons who have experienced current and former instances of harm at the hands of law enforcement to raise concerns, share experiences and achieve justice in a process that will be built with marginalized and oppressed groups at the center,said Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County District Attorney. “We will begin to pursue justice while giving District Attorneys an opportunity to demonstrate that we care about the wrongs of the past, and we want to prevent them in the future.”

“We often hear people say that ‘the justice system is broken,’ and I honestly understand this conclusion. People see the pain the system causes, and how little justice oppressed communities actually get, and conclude that it’s broken, but the truth is much more nefarious,” said Shaun King, Co-Founder of the Grassroots Law Project. “This system is not broken. It’s functioning exactly the way those who designed and built it intended it to function. It was not built to give marginalized communities justice. It was built to oppress them. And moving forward, we must build brand new pathways for truth, justice, and reconciliation. The old ones will never get us there.”

“The deadliest police culture in the developed world — the most incarcerated nation in world history — has devoured individuals, families, and entire communities for generations. Its victims have been disproportionately Black and what they call justice in the United States has been dispensed among racial lines,” said Lee Merritt, civil rights attorney and Co-Founder of the Grassroots Law Project. “The TJRC will give communities access to the justice that has long since been absent from this nation’s so-called criminal justice system. Creating new institutions to address historic atrocities and modern inequities embedded in the fabric of society is essential if we are ever going to turn the page on America’s bloody legacy.”

Truth, justice and reconciliation commissions are entities set up to uncover past instances of racial and ethnic injustice that were frequently ignored or even caused by the government. They are designed to map strategies for resolving conflict and bring true healing and reconciliation to victims of harm. District Attorneys Larry Krasner, Rachael Rollins, and Chesa Boudin spoke on the importance of these commissions on the media conference call in conjunction with Grassroots Law Project founders Shaun King and Lee Merritt. To access a recording of the call, email jenniferr@spotlightpr.org.

 

Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org