Amelia Boynton remembered as the ‘Rosa Parks’ of Selma Movement

— Amelia Boynton Robinson, who died Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala. at the age of 104, is being praised as the ‘Rosa Parks’ of the Selma voting rights movement.

Mrs. Boynton, as she was known throughout the movement, had been hospitalized since suffering a stroke in July. She was a courageous voting rights crusader who was brutally beaten on “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the first leg of the Selma to Montgomery, Ala. March that provided the impetus for passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

She and her late husband, Sam Boynton, opened their home to Atlanta-based voting rights organizers representing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also conducted many of his strategy sessions in the Boynton home.

“Dr. Boynton was the straw that stirred the drink. She was a major catalyst in the Selma to the Montgomery march,” said Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of SCLC, the organization co-founded by Dr. King. “She helped start and more importantly, bring attention to ‘Bloody Sunday’ and her strength, courage and tenacity helped make Selma the historical icon that we know today. Dr. Boynton was to Selma what Rosa Parks was to Montgomery,” a reference to the African American seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat to a White patron ignited the 1955 Montgomery, Ala. Bus Boycott that propelled King to national fame.

President Barack Obama, who was with the wheelchair-bound Boynton in March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, also praised the civil rights warrior.

“Fifty years ago, she marched in Selma, and the quiet heroism of those marchers helped pave the way for the landmark Voting Rights Act,” he said in a statement. “But for the rest of her life, she kept marching – to make sure the law was upheld, and barriers to the polls torn down. And America is so fortunate she did.”

Obama added, “To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example – that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote.”

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), whose skull was cracked in Selma on “Bloody Sunday,” said: “This nation has lost a crusader, a warrior, and a fighter for justice. She was one of the most dependable, reliable leaders to stand up for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama and in the American South.”

He continued, “Amelia Boynton was fearless in the face of brutal injustice, willing to risk all she had on the frontlines of change in America. She was arrested, shoved and pushed in front of the Dallas County courthouse by sheriff Jim Clark. She was knocked down on Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as 600 of us attempted to march to Montgomery to dramatize the dire need for voting rights legislation in this country.”

Hastert indictment spotlights Republican hypocrisy

— The indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the disclosure that he may have been sexually involved with at least two boys while serving as a high school football and wrestling coach in Illinois exposes the hypocrisy of the self-appointed morality police.


George E. Curry

It turns out that Hastert is the latest in a long line of “family values” spouting Republicans who led the charge to successfully impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

However, while publicly vilifying Clinton, key Republican leaders had participated in or were continuing extramarital affairs with women or, like Hastert, boys.

The impeachment of Clinton was presided over by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois.

“Ironically, Hyde turned out to have been guilty of his own extramarital indiscretions. In a September 1998 article, reported that Hyde had carried on an affair with a married woman named Cherie Snodgrass during the 1960s, a story the Congressman later acknowledged was true,” Time magazine reported.

Hastert’s ascension to power in the House began with the resignation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

As leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution that led to a GOP House majority for the first time in four decades, Gingrich resigned in 1998 as his party was preparing to dump him after the mid-term election reduced the number of GOP seats by five, giving the party a slim 223-211 edge over Democrats.

In a story headlined, “Gingrich Admits to Affair During Clinton Impeachment,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper wrote, “Setting the stage for his entry into the presidential race, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., gave a radio interview … in which Gingrich for the first time publicly acknowledged cheating on his first and second wives.”

Quoting Gingrich, the story continued, “‘I was married very young and had my first daughter when I was very young, in fact at the end of my freshman year in college,’” he said of his first marriage to Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher. “‘And after a period of time, about 18 years, things just didn’t work out.’”

“Gingrich married his second wife, Marianne Ginther, months after he divorced Battley in 1981. According to Battley, Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.”

The story said, “Gingrich also acknowledged cheating on Ginther while leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for allegations of perjury involving the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case and the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.”

Finally, the story noted, “Gingrich divorced Ginther in 2000 and soon married his third wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who was in her 20s when she and Gingrich began their affair.”

Rep. Robert L. Livingston (R-La.) had been elected to succeed Gingrich as House Speaker at the beginning of the January 1999 session, but he abruptly resigned before taking office.

In October, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine and a leading pornographer, placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering up to $1 million to anyone who could prove they had “an adulterous sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official.”

On Dec. 18, 1998, Flynt announced that he had evidence of four extramarital affairs by Livingston. The next day, Livingston resigned, saying that he had “strayed from my marriage.”

When beleaguered Republicans were looking for someone with an unblemished record to coalesce around, they quickly turned to Dennis Hastert. He served as Speaker from 1999 to 2007.

The New Yorker magazine observed, “Hastert lost the job when he mishandled the scandal that erupted when Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was discovered to have sent sexual messages to teen-age male congressional pages.”

Now, we may finally know why Hastert was reluctant to move against Foley.

Hastert was indicted and charged with violating U.S. banking laws and making false statements to the FBI. According to the 7-page indictment, Hastert had agreed to pay $3.5 million in 2010 to “compensate and conceal” Hastert’s “prior misconduct.”

CBS News reported that “the FBI became aware of as many as two, maybe three, potential victims alleging sexual misconduct by the House speaker.” It also reported,

“Jolene Burdge told ABC that Hastert molested her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, all through high school. At the time, Hastert was the wrestling coach and Reinboldt was the student equipment manager at Yorkville High School in Illinois.

“…Reinboldt is not ‘Individual A’ mentioned in Hastert’s indictment. According to Burdge, Reinboldt died in 1995 at the age of 42 from AIDS. When her brother came out as gay, Burdge said he told her a secret.

“‘I asked him, ‘Steve, what was your first same-sex experience?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” Burdge said. “And, you know, I was stunned.”

By now, it shouldn’t be stunning that the Republican morality police are rank hypocrites.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him at and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at

Black boys do more than run

— I recently attended my grandson Austin Ragland’s graduation from pre-school in Buford, Ga. Yes, you read correctly – pre-school. It’s never too soon to begin celebrating academic achievement, as his graduation from pre-school attests. So, PaPa was excited about going to Austin’s graduation ceremony and seeing him don a cap and gown for the first time to receive his “diploma.”


George E. Curry

In addition to wanting to support every significant event in Austin’s life, PaPa realizes, to borrow a phrase from Jesse Jackson, that he has more yesterdays than tomorrows. I don’t know how many such celebrations I’ll be around for, so the sooner we begin celebrating, the better.

At 5 years old, Austin is extremely smart. He read more books than anyone else in his age-group and thanks to his parents, learning is fun to him. He frequently wants to practice his site words, even on weekends, without being asked and loves reading to Grammy.

I was expecting to hear some reference to Austin’s quickly developing intellect at his graduation, but was I ever disappointed. Miffed is a more accurate description. Naw, I was pissed.

When it was Austin’s turn to receive his diploma, he had been instructed to run to the front of the room, which he did.

“Austin Ragland – as you can see, he’s our best boy runner,” the presiding teacher said. “He’s really fast. Give me a hug.”

I said beneath my breath, “He does more than run.” And the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.

Let’s be clear: Austin’s pre-school has done a wonderful job providing him with a firm educational foundation. I believe his teachers are good-hearted, caring individuals who have Austin’s best interests at heart. Still, I find it troubling that of all the things they could have said about Austin, they chose to focus on his speed.

To be fair, they did the same things to some of Austin’s White classmates – one boy was praised for his athletic skills. So, I don’t view it as conscious racism. But I don’t know Austin’s White classmates, I know him. And I know how critical it is to highlight brain over brawn.

Fortunately, Austin is a good athlete – he plays basketball and soccer – and he’s an excellent student. But his parents and grandparents want him to know that what he does academically is far more important than what he does on the basketball court or soccer field. In my grandson’s case, he will definitely get that reinforcement from his family. But I fear some of his friends might not receive the message. And that’s why it’s so important that educators be aware of the messages they are consciously and unconsciously transmitting to young Black boys in particular.

As education consultant and prolific author Jawanza Kunjufu observes, “Visit a kindergarten class and observe Black boys in action. They’re eager, they sit in the front, they’re on task. They love learning.”

But by the time they are in the 9th grade, they have absorbed a different message, one where academics are not valued as much as they should be.

Kunjufu explained, “Boys don’t drop out in the 12th grade. They physically drop out in the ninth grade, but they emotionally and academically drop out in the fourth grade.”

A contributing factor, according to Kunjufu, is the composition of the teaching force.

“Can you imagine African Americans may be the only group expecting someone else to educate their children?” he wrote. “White female teachers constitute 83 percent of the U.S. elementary teaching force. African American students are 17 percent of public school students nationwide, but represent only 6 percent of the teachers.

“Unfortunately, African American males constitute only 1 percent of the teaching population. There are schools without one African American male academic teacher. They are employed as custodians, security guards, and P.E. teachers. Often schools will hire an African American male to be assistant principal which translates into being in charge of all male behavioral problems.”

Make no mistake about it, Black girls, who are suspended or expelled from school at higher rates than White girls, also deserve special attention and should not be ignored in the rush to create new programs and opportunities for Black boys and men. Still, visit any college campus and you’ll notice the severe underrepresentation of Black males.

After the graduation ceremony, one of the administrators told Grammy that Austin will be attending a challenging kindergarten in the fall and volunteered, “He’ll probably be placed in the gifted class.”

To me, sharing that with the audience would have been much better than merely proclaiming that he was the fastest student in the class. He was also one of the smartest and that should not have been overlooked.

Politicizing donations to Clinton Foundation

— Like the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy that primarily funds education, world health and population projects, the Clinton Foundation was established to address such issues as climate change, global health, economic development, health and wellness and problems involving women and girls.

In a crass effort to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign bid, major Republican figures and Fox News, their partner-in-crime, are peddling the idea that there is something inherently wrong with supporting private efforts to improve the world.

As Media Matters observes, they are “falsely equating donations to the Clinton Foundation with contributions to a Democratic political campaign.” The media watchdog group observes, “The foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which means it is ‘absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.’”

Media Matters wrote, “Paul Waldman, an American Prospect senior writer and former Media Matters senior fellow, criticized Politico reporter Dylan Byers for drawing a misleading ‘parallel between donating to a candidate’s campaign and donating to a charitable foundation run by an ex-president.’

“Other media figures have similarly made the false political campaign comparison. Fox News host Gretchen Carlson,, National Review Online, and, all suggested a donation to the foundation was equivalent to financing Democratic candidates.

“As Waldman explained at The Washington Post, ‘it’s notable that everyone is now treating the Clinton Foundation as if it has long been central to sort of scheme to personally benefit the Clintons, and not a charitable foundation.’ He added that ‘judging by the way the foundation is now talked about – as if anyone who has had any association with it is tainted – you’d think it was running a network of international assassins instead of distributing malaria medication.’”

Partisan critics conveniently neglect to note that prominent Republicans are also generous contributors to the Clinton Foundation.

For example, Rupert Murdoch, founder of the News Corporation Foundation, and his son, James, have given more than a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. In fact, more than a dozen news organizations have donated to the foundation.

Aside from the overt political attack on the Clinton Foundation, the case of George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton administration press secretary, illustrates the problems associated with a political operative switching careers in hopes of being viewed as a credible journalist.

Too often TV talking heads are labeled “journalists” when they are anything but. As the American Press Institute notes, “Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” In other words, it’s not merely the ability to share one’s opinions.

Stephanopoulos erred by making a $75,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, knowing it could call into question his ability to be fair. He compounded the mistake by failing to disclose it to the public. Like it or not, if journalists want to maintain their credibility, they must refrain from participating in overt political acts or behavior that can be perceived that way.

Britt Hume of Fox said, “…if there’s one thing he [Stephanopoulos] needed to do in doing that was to sever any real or apparent ties with the Clintons. Contributing to their foundation is one thing. And now it also turns out that he participated in panels and other events connected to the Clinton Global Initiative. It is a mistake to do that. You want to be seen as independent.”

Evidently, you get a pass if you’re at Fox News.

“Fox News has attacked ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos for participating in Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, calling it a ‘mistake’ that compromises ‘good coverage,’” Media Matters found. “But Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated or participated in at least eight [Clinton Global Initiative] events between 2008 and 2013 while at CNBC.”

Yet, Fox is not calling that a “mistake” that compromises “good coverage.”

Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, was criticized for making a paltry $250 donation in 2010 to the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund. She issued a statement, saying: “I made the gift in response to an urgent joint appeal from former President Clinton and then-President George W. Bush for aid to the victims of the Haiti earthquake,” Woodruff explained in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “Seeing the massive loss of human life and the terrible conditions for survivors, I wanted to make a contribution and saw this as a way to do that.”

Yes, “journalists” must walk a fine line, not crossing over into political partisanship. And, yes, they must avoid even the appearance of such activity. But let’s be equally clear: The Clinton Foundation is a highly respected charity, not a political offshoot of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him at and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at

Justice not delayed in Baltimore

— Three extremely qualified African American women are at the forefront of making certain that Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of police in Baltimore will not go unpunished.

Loretta Lynch began her first day as U.S. attorney general by focusing her attention on Baltimore and offering the assistance of her department. Within hours of receiving a report from the medical examiner that Gray’s death had been ruled a homicide, state attorney Marilyn J. Mosby promptly announced the filing of charges against six Baltimore cops in connection with Freddie Gray’s death. A couple of hours later, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake followed up with a strong warning to rogue cops that her administration would not tolerate racism.

Mosby summed it up this way: “If, with the nation watching, three black women at three different levels can’t get justice and healing for this community, you tell me where we’re going to get it in our country.”

One legal maximum holds that justice delayed is justice denied. If that’s the case, early indications are that there will be no delay in justice in Baltimore in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, who was arrested and placed in a police van without a seat belt on April 12. He fell into a coma en route and died a week later as a result of injuries to his spinal cord.

Mosby, a descendant of five generations of police officers, surprised the public last Friday by how quickly she filed charges against six police officers.

At the news conference, she said: “To those that are angry, hurt or have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of police officers I urge you to channel that energy peacefully as we prosecute this case I have heard your calls for ‘No justice, no peace,’ however your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.”

Mosby is a graduate of Tuskegee University, a historically Black institution in Alabama. At 35 years old, she is believed to be the youngest chief prosecutor in the nation. And she clearly aligned herself with the young people who had protested Gray’s death.

“….to the youth of the city. I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s insure we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause and as young people, our time is now.”

In a statement to the media that lasted less than two minutes, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake warned: “To those of you who want to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear: There is no place for you in the Baltimore City Police Department.”

On Friday, President Obama said, “It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Freddie Gray. And it is my practice not to comment on the legal processes involved; that would not be appropriate. But I can tell you that justice needs to be served.”

When strong sisters take strong stances, invariably there are vocal opponents.

Rawlings-Blake was repeatedly criticized for not requesting the National Guard and heavy military equipment earlier to curb the violence that flared after Gray’s death. But, as she repeatedly explained, she wanted to avoid the over reaction that Ferguson had undergone, which only incited more street violence.

Speaking at Gray’s funeral, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) declared, “I’ve often said that our children are the living messages we send to the future we will never see, but now, our children are sending us to a future they will never see. There is something wrong with that picture,” he said “I’m in the twilight years, but I am telling you we will not rest we will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done.”

To the surprise of no one, the Fraternal Order of Police asked Mosby to step down as prosecutor.

Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, wrote: “I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case. These conflicts include your personal and professional relations with Gray family attorney, William Murphy, and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media,” he wrote. “Based on several nationally televised interviews, these reporters are likely to be witnesses in any potential litigation regarding this incident.”

The FOP is raising money for the accused police officers, but must find another site after GoFundMe, the crowd funding site, took down the site.

According to public records, Murphy donated $5,000 to Mosby’s campaign and served on her transition committee.

The Baltimore Sun quoted Rochelle Ritchie, a spokesperson for Mosby: “State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been elected by the residents in Baltimore City to uphold the law in every neighborhood including her own, regardless of if her husband is the councilman within the district where numerous crimes occur. Hundreds of people donated to her campaign. There is no conflict of interest surrounding Billy Murphy. He is representing the family in a civil case which has nothing to do with the criminal case.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Mosby said her life experiences made her uniquely qualified to prosecute this case.

Mosby, whose husband serves on the city council, would later tell a reporter, “I’ve had experiences as an African-American woman where I’ve been harassed by police, or my husband has been pulled over and harassed by police. Does that give me a perspective? I think it does.”

Follow George Curry on Twitter at @currygeorge.

Proof that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Shelby

— When the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act nearly two years ago in Shelby County v. Holder, many of us suspected that Chief Justice John Roberts in particular was distorting the severity of voting violations in jurisdictions covered by the act. As a popular GEICO commercial says, now we know.


George E. Curry

We now know because of extensive research conducted by William R. Kenan, Jr., a professor at the California Institute of Technology, titled, “Do the Facts of Voting Rights Support Chief Justice Roberts’ Opinion in Shelby County?”

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 4 of the law that requires certain jurisdictions with a proven history of racial discrimination to pre-clear any changes in their elections – such as redistricting, annexations and switching to at-large elections – with either the Justice Department or the federal District Court in Washington, D.C.

Despite renewals of the Voting Rights Act by Congress in 1970, 1975, 1982 and a 25-year extension in 2006, Roberts contended that the preclearance provision was no longer needed.

Writing for the majority, Roberts said, “…. But history did not end in 1965. By the time the Act was reauthorized in 2006, there had been 40 more years of it. In assessing the ‘current need’ for a preclearance system that treats States differently from one another today, that history cannot be ignored. During that time, largely because of the Voting Rights Act, voting tests were abolished, disparities in voter registration and turnout due to race were erased, and African-Americans attained political office in record numbers. And yet the coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs.”

However, as Kenan points out in his research, “Neither the Chief Justice nor any scholars or civil rights proponents or opponents have systematically examined the evidence on the entire pattern of proven voting rights violations over time and space.”

Kenan examined the issue by compiling what he called the largest such database in existence, including numerous maps to make his point.

“Congress in 2006 was not presented with maps or other documents that laid out the pattern of proven voting rights infractions so starkly, but it received plentiful evidence in the form of lists and discussions of cases that showed that the problems were still overwhelmingly concentrated in the South and that discrimination continued to be widespread,” he wrote.

“And the map would have shown that the number of voting rights infractions had increased, not decreased, compared to the earlier period.”

Kenan explained, “An objective observer in 2006 comparing the number and location of all successful voting rights events in the period since the last renewal in 1982 with the events of the years from 1957 to 1981 would conclude that Section 5 needed to be renewed, and that the coverage scheme still fit the problem remarkably well, hitting the target about 94% of the time. Even among Section 2 cases, which could be filed anywhere in the country, 83.2% of the successful cases from 1982 through 2005 originated in covered jurisdictions.”

Roberts was joined by the court’s conservative majority, including Clarence Thomas. As usual, Thomas asked no questions during the proceedings. In his concurring opinion, he stated, “I join the Court’s opinion in full but write separately to explain that I would find Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional as well.”

That comes as no surprise. But what did come as a surprise, as I have written here, was that the National Black Chamber of Commerce (not to be confused with the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.), established by Harry C. Alford and his wife, Kay, filed a brief in support of Shelby County mirroring the objections raised by John Roberts.

In its shameful friend-of-the court brief, it claimed, “Section 5 is no longer necessary to combat widespread and persistent discrimination in voting and now, perversely serves as an impediment to racial neutrality in voting and to the empowerment of state and local officials who represent minority constituencies.”

The research undercuts the premise advanced by John Roberts and Harry Alford’s group and notes the role courts play in undermining access to the ballot box.

Professsor Kenan wrote, “…by rendering decisions that make it easier or harder to bring and win voting rights cases or make objections, the Supreme Court can, in effect, manipulate the evidence of discrimination, which it can then use, in a second stage, to justify a decision to further weaken or strengthen the tools. It can create the reality that it subsequently reacts to. The Rehnquist and Roberts Courts have done exactly that.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him at and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at

Controversy over videotaping cops

— Feidin Santana, the young Dominican immigrant who videotaped North Charleston, S.C. police officer Michael Slager firing his gun eight times, killing Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man who was fleeing, was a hero. His quick decision to videotape the unfolding action on his telephone led to the arrest of Slager for murder.


George E. Curry

However, in some states, instead of being hailed as a hero, Santana would be the one behind bars.

Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts have used their wiretapping laws to prevent videotaping police in public places. Some states are moving in that direction.

But, as we can now see, videotape can be a game changer.

VIDEO: Why did police chase Freddie Gray?

This was vividly illustrated in 1991 with the brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. More recently, the July 17 choking death of Eric Garner in New York City was captured on video as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”

Thanks to a passerby, we also saw the July 1 video of a California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew straddling Marlene Pinnock, a 51-year old Black woman near a Santa Monica freeway and punching her 10-15 times. She reached an out-of-court settlement that required a $1.5 million payment and the resignation of Andrew.

Although no one can creditably deny the value of citizens being able to videotape on-duty police officers operating in public spaces, courts are sharply divided on whether that’s protected under the First Amendment.

In an article titled, “The Legal Right to Videotape Police Isn’t Actually All That Clear,” the Atlantic Citylab noted, “… The truth is that courts have not uniformly recognized that a right to record police actually exists. Though the U.S. Department of Justice has expressed its support for the right to record, only four federal appeals courts have ruled that such a right exists; others have either not ruled at all or narrowly rules that no right had been ‘clearly established.’”

I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV. But the best available legal advice seems to be that generally speaking, it’s legal under the First Amendment to videotape on-duty police officers as long as it is on public property and you are not interfering with them performing their official duties. As noted above, some state laws ban such recordings.

One legal site,, recommends that you:

Tell police you are recording them;

Comply with their requests to step back or identify yourself;

Keep your camera out of the way (low and close to your body); and

If need be, calmly remind them of your right to film them.

Another site,, lists seven rules for recording police, including knowing your state’s law and passcode protecting your cellphone.

Given recent success, you can expect police unions around the nation to push for legislation that would bar citizens from videotaping such incidents involving police.

Even before the recent spree of police killing African Americans, there was strong resistance. A woman in Rochester, N.Y., for example, was arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration in 2011 after videotaping three White police officers interrogating a Black man from her front yard. Charges were later dropped against the woman, Emily Good, 28.

What would have happened to Officer Slager in South Carolina had there been no videotape?

In a word –nothing.

In fact, the officer had radioed, “Shots fired… Subject is down. He grabbed my Taser,” a charge not supported by the videotape. Instead, what we see in the video is Slager dropping the Taser near Scott’s motionless body. The cover-up was underway before Scott’s body could be moved to the morgue.

The local newspaper reported the next day:

“A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.

“That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.

“The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged.”

Of course, that was a lie.

According to the Washington Post, Victoria Middleton, executive director for the ACLU of South Carolina, said: “…I think one of the concerns that immediately comes to mind is the discrepancy between the initial story, the kind of rush to judgment, the rush to say that procedures were followed and this was justified, and then when the video surfaced that quickly unraveled. That could raise concerns about other incidents in which we have been assured that nothing was out of order and the officer acted completely properly but there were no witnesses or video documentation to dispute that.”

And that’s why we must resist all efforts to prevent citizens from freely videotaping police while they are supposedly acting in a lawful manner.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him at and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at

Mr. Wade and the ‘First Family of the Housing Projects’

— Approximately three weeks ago, I suffered a mild heart attack. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Robert T. Wade, a longtime family friend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, died at the age of 94. Against the advice of close friends and even some relatives, I attended his funeral last Saturday.

To appreciate why I was determined to attend Mr. Wade’s funeral, you have to understand what Mr. Wade meant to me, and thousands of other black kids who grew up in the housing projects during the 1950s and 1960s. Most black communities have a Mr. Wade, a universally respected adult who adopts every child in the community as his own.

As I said in my tribute to him at the funeral, we considered the Wades the “First Family of the Housing Projects.” Of course, Mr. Wade was the president and his wife, Mrs. Ella Wade, was the First Lady. To those of us who lived in McKenzie Court, my all-black housing project, they were our Kennedys. They were royalty and we wanted to be like them.

Of the seven Wade children, two of them were males— Archie and Harold. Archie was the oldest and seven years my senior. Harold was five years older than me, about the same age as my youngest uncle, Jesse Harris. The three were the brothers I never had.

Hal and Archie were standout athletes and even played professional baseball. But they were scholars first. Mrs. Wade and the girls— Ethel Jean, Glenda, Janice, Phyllis and Karen— in addition to being beautiful, were classy and always exuded class.

If you happened to be at 73-B McKenzie Court around dinner time, which many of us skillfully managed to do, somehow Mrs. Wade had cooked enough food to accommodate young people like me who wanted to get as close to royalty as possible.

Mr. Wade was the first black businessman that I knew. He established Wade Printing Co. in 1953 and most of my life it was on what was then 32nd Avenue, now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. It was on our route from McKenzie Court to Druid High School. So, every school day, we walked past his shop going to and from school; many times he would be standing outside, which was an open invitation for us to stop by and talk.

For those of us who did not grow up with our biological father, Mr. Wade cast an even larger shadow. He became daddy, teacher, counselor and role model, all rolled into one. I can’t think of a time I did not know Mr. Wade. Nor can I think of a time when he was so busy that he didn’t immediately stop what he was doing to talk to me and any other kid who sought his advice. Mr. Wade didn’t just offer words he provided the example of how to live a moral, blemish-free, admirable life.

As I reflect on his life, I am amazed how many times Mr. Wade encouraged me even after I became an adult. When Charles Steele, a childhood friend, first became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), he presented us with a president’s award. I was honored just to have my name mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Wade’s. When I gave a commencement address at Alabama A&M University, where he attended and roomed with future civil rights icon Joseph Lowery, Mr. Wade was one of the first persons to greet me when I exited the stage.

One time I was back in Tuscaloosa and had just completed an interview at WTUG, the local black radio station. When I left the studio, there waiting for me was Mr. Wade. Yes, I was one of his boys and as one of his boys, you never wanted to disappoint him. Instead, you wanted to make him proud, you wanted him to know that all of the time and wisdom that he shared with you was not a waste of time.

When I listened to others at Weeping Mary Missionary Baptist Church share memories of this impressive man, his accomplishments were remarkable in breath. For me, his greatest contribution was the impact he had on young African Americans, especially boys, during an era of racial segregation. When so many people in society were telling us we couldn’t accomplish anything because we were black, Mr. Wade convinced us that we could do anything that we could imagine. He reminded us that we would have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition, but we could beat the odds and take our rightful place in the world.

Mr. Wade has left us physically, but a part of him remains buried deep in our hearts. He was our shinning example. And just like we didn’t want to disappoint him in life, we won’t disappoint him in death, either.

George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and Curry can be reached through his website:

I had a heart attack

— Nothing was more startling than when a cardiologist looked me directly in the eyes and said matter-of-factly: “It looks like you had a heart attack.” I was dumbfounded. When? Where? How much damage was done? Why didn’t I know it?

It certainly didn’t feel like I had suffered a heart attack.

I had just covered and participated in the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala. The ceremonies had special significance to me because as a senior at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, I had participated in the last day of the march in Montgomery, where I saw James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte for the first time.

Ann and I arrived a day early, had dinner with Susan Gandy, the youngest of my three sisters, who had driven over to Montgomery from Tuskegee with her husband, Iverson, Jr., and my neice, Rachel.

In addition to covering the president’s speech Saturday, I had received a Freedom Flame Award that night and on Sunday morning was one of the speakers at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday and completed my writing and editing for the NNPA News Service on Monday.

We stopped in Buford, Ga. Tuesday en route back to Washington, D.C. to visit Ann’s son, Derek Ragland; his wife, April, and our grandkids, Austin, 5, and Autumn 1.

On Wednesday night, I felt a slight pain in my chest, but dismissed it as indigestion. It continued Thursday night. When the pain persisted Friday night, Ann insisted on taking me to the hospital and I acquiesced.

We ended up at Emory Johns Creek Hospital. To Ann’s disbelief, I grabbed my iPad mini, a book, my charger, and a notebook as we headed out of the door. I know how long the wait can be in emergency rooms and did not want to be without reading material if I became trapped in the waiting lounge.

But once my symptoms were shared with the intake nurses, I was whizzed through the paperwork and placed in a room to wait for a doctor, to be administered an EKG and, of course, give blood.

“We’re going to keep you overnight to see what’s happening,” the attending physician told me. From the way he said “keep me,” I deduced that they were not keeping me around just to get to know me better. Something was amiss and I wasn’t sure what it was. I was wheeled into a private room in the Intensive Care Unit, where I was closely monitored around the clock, had blood extracted – usually at ungodly hours – and hooked up to a series of instruments. A hospital is not place to get sleep; it’s the only place in the world where they wake you up to give you a sleeping pill.

I was told around midnight that at 7 a.m. Saturday, a stent would be inserted into my heart to unblock a clogged artery. At the age of 50, I had a triple bypass. I had played quarterback at Druid High and Knoxville College and neither drank – not even wine – smoked nor used illicit drugs. Yet, an athletic past and clean living were not sufficient. I was the son of the South and I had grown up in a family where our grease was cooked in grease.

Now, 18 years later, I was told that of the three bypassed arteries, one was completely blocked, one was 97 percent blocked, and one was functioning fine. The surgery itself was not as dramatic as the bypass, which required the heart to be stopped temporarily. This time, the cardiologist made an incision in my groin, placed a stent over a balloon catheter and slid it into the heart muscle to improve blood flow. I was awake, but did not feel any pain.

From there, the ICU nurses — especially Glenn, Rene, KayLee and Shig — took fantastic care of me. They could not have provided better care, even if that meant waking me constantly.

I had a follow-up visit and a stress test with Dr. Jigishu Dhabuwala at the North Atlanta Heart and Vascular Clinic before being released to the care of Dr. Boisey O. Barnes, my regular cardiologist in Washington. I spoke with Dr. Barnes during this period and before I returned home, he had already discussed getting me into a heart rehabilitation program and enrolling me in a Harvard study to prevent second heart attacks.

After writing about my bypass 18 years ago, Bill Pickard, a Detroit businessman, said I had probably saved his life because he took some immediate steps to improve his health after reading about my challenge in Emerge magazine.

At the urging of “Uncle Mike” Fauvelle of Setauket, N.Y., I am writing about my second close call with death, hoping that it, too, will prompt you to not only pay closer attention to your health, but be aware of the small signs of trouble and do something about it immediately if you sense something is awry.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him at and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at

Watching the elections from abroad

— On Election Night, I usually stay awake as long as my eyelids are willing to cooperate. However, this year was different. Instead of alternating between watching CNN and tracking results on the Internet, I was in the Holy Land, nearly 6,000 miles from my office in Washington, D.C.

With Daylight Savings Time now in effect, I was in a time zone Tuesday seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. That meant that instead of hearing the TV network projections trickle in as polls closed in different regions of the U.S., I had to go to bed not knowing if Democrats had lost control of the Senate, as predicted, and how well African Americans had turned out in the pivotal states of North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas.

I fell asleep in my hotel room confident of two things: First, no matter how strongly blacks went to the polls in this midterm election, when voting historically favors the party out of the White House, Democrats were unlikely to regain control of the House of Representatives. Second, if Republicans managed to wrestle control from Democrats in the Senate, they would blame the low turnout among African Americans.

Before departing Washington, I already saw this scenario unfolding. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post, the two most politically influential newspapers in the nation, had published stories about the importance of the black vote in Tuesday’s midterm election and that without a heavy black turnout, the prospect of Democrats retaining the upper chamber were doomed.

Missing in the analysis was how Democrats had shot themselves in the foot. It is important to understand that most white voters don’t support Democrats. The last three Democrats elected president— Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama— won each time with a minority of the white vote. Considering there are more white voters in the U.S. than blacks, perhaps a more appropriate question is: Why are white voters not turning out for Democrats? All that weight should not fall on the shoulders of black voters.

A second point to remember is that even with black voters being key to Democratic success, Democratic strategists have not, as the old lady making church announcements puts it, governed themselves accordingly. Even in battleground states, they didn’t purchase ads in most black newspapers, if they bought any ads at all, until the waning days of the campaign. Last-minute White House efforts were largely directed at radio programs hosted by comedians and DJs, as if they could mobilize black voters all by themselves with shallow drive-by interviews.

Although I was on foreign soil on Election Night, I did my civic duty by voting before I left. That, too, was different. I usually enjoy the energy of voting on Election Day, seeing who turns out and watching as children enter the voting booth with a parent. Voting early this year had its own satisfying sensation. There was the sheer joy of knowing I had made my voice heard, even though I wouldn’t be home on Tuesday.

My attention for the past two weeks has been split between the midterm elections in the U.S. and growing tension between Israel and Palestine. Though I have been in the Middle East for that period, at times I had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t reliving my childhood in segregated Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, reacting to pressure to settlers on land formerly occupied by Palestinians, has proposed barring Palestinians who live in the West Bank, but commute to work in Israel from riding the same buses as Jewish riders. The proposal to operate segregated buses like the ones I grew up with in Alabama is facing a strong pushback from other Israeli leaders and supporters of Israel in the United States.

Equally disturbing, a delegation of African Americans visiting the village of Bil’in Saturday afternoon was looking at the long, concrete wall encircling a large settlement on previously occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank when one of our hosts noticed a jeep inside the housing compound headed in our direction. No one worried because we were on the outside of the settlement, which is about seven miles west of the Ramallah, and we were not breaking any laws.

Still, moments later, several canisters of tear gas were fired just yards from us, forcing us to flee. Most of us were coughing and feeling a burning sensation in our eyes as we quickly fled. It was but a small sample of what Palestinians experience in their everyday life.

I will be returning home this weekend after a fascinating two-week trip. I will write a series of stories based on visit upon my return. And like all trips abroad, I will be following news out of the Middle East more closely than before. That is always one of the lasting benefits of traveling to other parts of the world.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website: