- Created on 10 June 2013
Venita Short, a Cumberland County, Ga., preschool worker, is reportedly distraught, after she was allegedly fired for being pregnant and unmarried, according to ABC11.
After reportedly being employed for more than a year and a half...
- Created on 10 June 2013
(CNN) -- Self-defense or murder?
That's the question at the heart of the trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Monday marks the start of jury selection in Seminole County, Florida, where Martin was fatally shot on February 26, 2012.
The shooting put a national spotlight on Zimmerman's hometown of Sanford and sparked fresh debates about race relations and gun laws in America.
Zimmerman is Hispanic; Martin was African-American.
An initial decision not to pursue charges against Zimmerman led to the dismissal of the town's police chief and the appointment of a special prosecutor, who accused the neighborhood watch volunteer of unjustly profiling and killing Martin.
Zimmerman now faces a second-degree murder charge in Martin's death. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently free on $1 million bond.
"We don't need you to do that"
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on almost nothing about what happened that day.
What's clear so far is this: Martin left the home of his father's girlfriend in Sanford to get a snack at a nearby convenience store.
As he walked back, carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea, he and Zimmerman crossed paths.
Earlier, Zimmerman had called 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood.
A recording of that call includes a police dispatcher asking the volunteer, "Are you following him?"
"Yeah," Zimmerman replied.
"OK, we don't need you to do that," the dispatcher said.
Zimmerman says he killed Martin, who was wearing a hoodie, in self-defense after the teen punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk.
He suffered a fractured nose and cuts to the back of his head, according to a medical report by Zimmerman's family doctor.
Sanford police initially questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges. They said then there were no grounds to disprove his account that he'd acted to protect himself.
The case soon became the center of a national controversy, which continues some 16 months later, though at a lower intensity.
On Monday, protesters in at least six cities plan to demonstrate in support of Martin, who was unarmed when he was shot.
His family has said Zimmerman profiled the teen and crossed the line from neighborhood watch volunteer to vigilante.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, has gone further, accusing Zimmerman of murdering Martin "in cold blood."
"In the fight of his life"
According to Crump, Martin was on the phone with his 16-year-old girlfriend shortly before the shooting.
The girl, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she heard someone ask Martin what he was doing and heard Martin ask why the person was following him.
She then got the impression there was an altercation, during which an earpiece fell out of Martin's ear and the connection went dead, Crump said.
Neighbors reported hearing gunfire.
Zimmerman recently waived his right to a pretrial hearing under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force when threatened regardless of where they are.
His lawyers will claim self-defense. Zimmerman himself could testify at trial.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said he has no imminent plans to ask for a change of venue and would only do so if lawyers can't select a suitable jury.
"If we can pick a jury in Seminole County, this is where the incident occurred and this is where the case should be decided," O'Mara told HLN's Jean Casarez.
He also said the George Zimmerman defense fund has raised $85,000 in the past week and a half.
Media coverage of the case is expected to be intense.
The case garnered so much attention that about a month after the shooting, President Barack Obama spoke about it, saying the shooting required "soul-searching."
Zimmerman's brother, Robert, has called on the state to drop the charges.
"George lived in a community plagued by crime and was the first to come forward to help his neighbors," Robert Zimmerman said last month.
"George is a good, decent and honest man. It is now my honor to advocate for him. George is in the fight of his life quite literally."
Authorities initially "did their job when they refused to charge someone with a crime who committed no crime," he said.
"In this country, you don't charge someone why any crime solely to assuage the concerns of the misinformed masses."
CNN's Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.
- Created on 09 June 2013
Black mayors were once rare and revered, with the late Maynard Jackson setting a high standard as the first Black mayor of a major southern city in 1974. Now they are a force in American politics.
The 39th Annual Convention for the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) rolled into town last week and the sleek event was attended by prestigious political and media figures like Education Secretary Arne Duncan and George Curry, the premier journalist of the Black Press. Founded in 1974 NCBM reportedly represents some 650 U.S. mayors, including 65 here in Georgia.
"When you look at the local elections this year watch Augusta, Brunswick, Macon and Dublin, which have large African American voter populations," says Willie Burns, the former mayor of Washington, Georgia. "Look to see some of those cities headed by Black mayors because of the increased Black voting clout and the clout women voters have. That tells you what we're doing is working; we are on the rise. I predict by 2016 Georgia is going to turn blue."
"We have Black mayors in major cities like Philadelphia, Sacramento, Savannah, Albany, Columbia, SC and Baton Rouge but the Conference membership is mostly made up of smaller cities," says Burns, currently the executive director of the Georgia Conference of Black Mayors.
Poverty in their cities remains h a pervasive and perplexing problems for many of the NCBM members. Mayor Burns laments that the new "cash crop" for many Black mayors is the prison system.
"It saddens you when you visit a prison where 90 percent of the population looks like us -- and the prison is the major industry in the town," Mayor Burns complains. "Davisboro, Georgia, for example, has a Black mayor and population of 2,000 – 1,500 of that is a prison system."
Mayor Bowser, Mayor Burns and other NCBM members are banking on the charisma of the incoming president Sacramento Mayor and former NBA point guard Kevin Johnson to enhance the group's financial fortunes. The organization has also begun to expand its membership internationally.
George Curry, an award-winning journalist and executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, told the group during a keynote address that growing their membership in Africa may be the answer to their wealth woes.
"According to the World Bank, seven of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa," Curry commented. "Seven out of 10 – Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria. And in some countries, such as Nigeria, this growth is not just fueled by oil money, but also by telecommunications, construction, trade, manufacturing and agriculture.
"The slave castles in Ghana and the 'Door of No Return' should remind us that Europeans descended upon Africa to steal its people. Now, they hope to come back and steal the land. We should never forget the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu: When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray,' we closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land. We can't let that happen again."
(Photo: Conference Speaker and National Newspaper Publishers Association Director George Curry , left, stands with SCLC President Charles Steele. Photos by Alexis Scott)
- Created on 10 June 2013
The Mississippi Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN), community leaders and local clergy in Natchez, Mississippi...
- Created on 08 June 2013
Bankrupt Morris Brown College has decided not to accept the City of Atlanta's $10 million offer to the school. The college's trustees decided against accepting taxpayer money that would have also eliminated its $35 million in debt.
The trustees had requested a $20 million bailout from the city in February. Anne Aaronson, a Philadelphia-based lawyer for the school, says the $10 million offer was insufficient and that Morris Brown has a better offer on the table, according to the AJC. Aaronson declined to give the paper any further details.
The Associated Press reports that the school is set to present its restructuring plan to a bankruptcy court by the end of the month.
"I believe I know how the movie ends," said Mayor Kasim Reed, who reportedly offered the plan to Morris Brown. "The movie ends with that area looking like a swap meet. And I am not going to have it said that we should have done something."
Reed's interest in saving the school may largely be rooted in its location adjacent to the site of the proposed new Atlanta Falcons stadium. Reed said he's worried the campus will be sold off in pieces and will become home to liquor stores, payday loan shops and other similar businesses.
Documents obtained by the AJC show that Reed and Invest Atlanta's proposal would have given the school $9.7 million. The proposal would have purchased the 37.22 acres tied up in bankruptcy; paid the Morris Brown's creditors; given the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which governs the school, $1 million in cash; paid $480,000 in back pay to professors and staff; allowed the school to rent the four buildings it still uses with an option to buy them back after three years; allowed Invest Atlanta to work with developers to redevelop the rest of the property.
Two-thirds of the money in the deal would have come from the Westside Tax Allocation District, and the rest would have come from the city's general fund. Invest Atlanta and the City Council would have had to approve the deal.
"Giving Morris Brown an opportunity to become healthy again and . provide accredited degrees to its students was an essential priority for this administration," Reed said.
The school proposed a $20 million bailout from the city in February. But that sum included operating expenses, and the city said it wasn't interested in running the school and couldn't do so legally.