Category: RTM News Reel Written by By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – At 7, Analouisa Valencia was crowned Palmetto Princess in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She relished it - and like a lot of little girls, she dreamed of becoming Miss America one day.
In a few months, Valencia, now 19, will take the stage for the Miss South Carolina contest, hoping for victory and a chance to compete for the coveted national title.
But she's no ordinary contestant. She will mark a first in her conservative home state.
Valencia's father is from Mexico; her mother, an African American. Valencia came out as a lesbian when she was in the ninth grade and took her girlfriend Tamyra Bell to her high school prom.
She was already shredding stereotypes of beauty pageants because she's biracial. But a lesbian beauty pageant contestant from South Carolina?
"I just really wanted to be an advocate for equality for everyone this year," she says on the phone before heading off to classes at Spartanburg Community College. She eventually wants to earn a business degree at the University of South Carolina.
Her participation in the Miss South Carolina contest is in part a human rights campaign: she is promoting rights for people with special needs (she coaches Special Olympics gymnasts), for racial minorities, for gay people.
She has already thought about her answers if the judges question her on this score. She will be perfectly open and honest about who she is, about their opinions.
"I want to show the judges who I really am," she says. "I want to show them how passionate I am about my platform, how passionate I am for being an advocate for equality."
South Carolina ranks low nationally on LGBT rights. It bans same-sex marriage, does not afford employment, housing or hate-crime protections for LGBT people and has unconstitutional sodomy laws still on the books.
For Valencia to make a run for Miss South Carolina is "courageous," says Ryan Wilson, the executive director of the South Carolina Equality Coalition, a statewide LGBT civil rights group.
"I think it takes a lot of courage for any young person to live openly and authentically. We are extremely proud of Analouisa," Wilson says.
He says beauty pageant contestants can be stereotyped, but they can often afford young women a chance to show leadership.
"She can be a role model for LGBT youth," Wilson says.
There hasn't been negative feedback, Valencia says. So far.
But she's prepared to cope with ugliness if it surfaces. For the time being, she's enjoying her title of Miss Lyman, her hometown just a few miles from Spartanburg.
She's been taking voice lessons every Friday. At the Miss South Carolina pageant in July, she will sing Leona Lewis' "Footprints in the Sand." She's confident she will make an impression.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 15:15
Category: RTM News Reel Written by News One
Even though NBA superstar Dwyane Wade (pictured) has tried to keep the monied particulars involving his scandalous divorce from former wife, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade, private, the couple’s financial settlement agreements have been leaked: Reportedly, Dwayne Wade will be doling out at least $25,000 a month to Siohvaughn, reports Gossip Extra.
In addition to the exorbitant spousal support sum, Wade is also expected to dig deep in to his pockets to pay for Siohvaughn’s living and travel expenses, which reportedly amounts to about $10,000 extra per month.
Wade and Siohvaughn, who were high school sweethearts since age 15 and were married for five years until it ended in 2007, had an unfortunately rocky break-up.
Afterward, the couple battled each other in court for the custody of their two boys, with mug-slinging and vicious character assassinations occurring on both sides.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 14:30
Category: RTM News Reel Written by By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
(CNN) -- You know things in Chicago are bad when 70 murders in the first quarter can be seen as a good thing. But context is everything: Last year at this time there had been more than 120 murders, so I guess we should thank God for small favors.
It seems inconceivable that the city President Barack Obama calls home is also the city where his family may be least safe. Just this Monday a 15-year-old boy was found shot dead in a backyard only four blocks from the president's house.
Stort by LZ Granderson
What's responsible for the bloodshed? Gang violence, as usual. Police estimate that of the 532 murders in 2012 -- nearly 1.5 a day -- about 80 percent were gang related. And yet, despite that rather staggering statistic, the national outcry is muted at best -- nothing, to say the least, like the kind we saw last week in Boston. What is it about the word "gang" that brings out the apathy in us? Would we view Chicago differently if we called the perpetrators something else?
In Chicago, nurses dodge bullets to provide care
I'm not saying the people of Boston do not deserve our sympathy; they do. Nor am I suggesting the apprehension of Boston terror suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not essential. But how do we explain our habit of greeting terrorists with 24-hour news coverage and relentless wrath while overlooking the gangs that terrorize our streets daily -- as if terrorism were only an enemy state and not a concept.
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The murder numbers may be slightly better in Chicago, but they do not fully communicate the city's state of siege. In February CNN reported that some children living in gang-ridden parts of the city carry guns because, to them, getting caught and serving time for possession of a gun is better than getting caught without one and dying.
Last month, city officials announced the closure of 54 "under-resourced" schools, which will force some kids to walk across warring gang territory to get to school. For example, in the seven blocks between George Manierre Elementary and Jenner Elementary there are three gangs fighting over territory: Black P Stones, Conservative Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples.
Kids and guns: 'These are not isolated tragedies'
If it all sounds scary, it's only because it is.
And if the name attached to all of this violence were al-Qaeda instead of Gangster Disciples; or if instead of "gang violence" the bloodshed were called "terrorism;" or if instead of calling the people spreading fear and mayhem gangs we were to call them what they really are -- terrorists -- the nation would demand more be done.
After all, if children are afraid to walk to school because they might get killed or if residents are afraid to identify perpetrators for fear of retaliation, I think it's safe to say they are being terrorized.
National politics cloud teen's funeral
Gang members face off on the court
Emanuel: We have a gang problem
Father of slain Chicago teen speaks out
What seems like a linguistic shell game is really an exercise in empathy. The thought of elementary school kids walking across areas of a city controlled by three terrorist groups becomes unacceptable to everyone, not just their parents. Hearing that 25 Chicagoans were shot in one weekend becomes a threat to national security, and not just the mayor's problem.
The story of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was caught in the crossfire of a turf war days after performing during the presidential inauguration, was of interest briefly but her story has since faded. She, too, died just a few blocks from the Obama's home. Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old girl, was shot in March while sitting on the lap of her father, Jonathan, the intended target and a gang member.
Opinion: Chicago's violence took my dad, friends
Last week, millions watched as an entire city was shut down to look for one guy. Every major news station was covering the pursuit of one guy. We all know the face and relatives of this one guy. And it's all because he is an alleged terrorist. But more American were murdered in the south and west sides of Chicago than there were U.S. servicemen killed in Afghanistan last year, and yet for some reason we don't view those neighborhoods as terrorized.
Last week, Abdella Ahmad Tounisi was arrested at O'Hare Airport because the FBI believed he was on his way to Syria to join a terrorist organization. Tounisi reportedly thought he was in contact with a recruiter for a jihadist militant group, but it was actually an FBI agent. I would love to see the FBI's anti-terrorism resources used in that matter to stop would-be gang members from flooding the streets of the country's third-largest city. Maybe Cornelius German, the boy found dead down the street from Obama's house, would still be alive.
Maybe Pendleton, who was playing in a park with her friends, would still be alive. Maybe Watkins, who was sitting on her father's lap, would have had a chance to live.
Their deaths wouldn't be considered "Chicago's problem" if authorities suspected terrorists were involved. But it's "gang-related," so...
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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 21:57
Category: RTM News Reel Written by News One
While the ever-disagreeable House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is best-known for almost single-handedly forcing America over the infamous fiscal cliff, the Republican politician is about to be known for something else: his weed-toting son-in-law Dominic Lakhan (pictured), who has a colorful rap sheet to take with him to the altar, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
Boehner’s 35-year-old daughter, Lindsay Marie (pictured below right with Mother, Debbie, center, and sister, Tricia) is set to marry Lakhan on May 10th in Delray Beach, Fla.
So what’s the big deal?
Florida-resident Lakhan, who was born in Jamaica and is a construction worker, was reportedly arrested twice, with one of those instances involving marijuana possession.
In 2003, Lakhan was reportedly arrested for having an open container while driving. The offense would be repeated again in 2006, when the dread was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 07:53
Category: RTM News Reel Written by Roz Edward, National Content Director
Last week, the Delaware State legislature approved a constitutional amendment to all but remove the last Jim Crow-era voter suppression law from its books.
The amendment, passed at the urging of the Delaware NAACP, allows people with nonviolent felony convictions to vote after their release from prison. This is a major victory for voting rights and a strike against the practice of "felony disenfranchisement". But it is also a major step forward for a nation still struggling to heal old racial wounds.
Felony disenfranchisement has direct roots in the Jim Crow Era. In the late 19th century, states above and below the Mason-Dixon Line began to find new and creative ways to keep black voters away from the polls. Banning people with felony convictions was one of the solutions.
For example, in 1901 the Commonwealth of Virginia had 147,000 black voters on the rolls. But many lawmakers saw this growing political block as a threat. At that year's Constitutional Convention, they hatched a plan to disenfranchise African Americans through a combination of black codes and felony disenfranchisement. One legislator said on the record that the plan would "eliminate the darkey as a political factor."
Ninety years later, Kemba Smith-Pradia was an undergraduate student at Hampton University. She got involved with the wrong crowd and found herself behind bars as an accessory to a nonviolent drug offense. President Clinton granted Kemba executive clemency in 2000, six years into her 24 year sentence. She went on to become a college graduate, law student, mother and foundation president - but until 2012, when her rights were finally restored, not a voter.
Kemba's story is just one example of how the legacy of the 1901 Convention lives on. In today's Virginia, 350,000 people are still disenfranchised by the 1901 law, and many of them are African Americans. Nationwide, 48 states allow some form of felony disenfranchisement, and one out of every 13 voting-age African Americans is affected. In four states - Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida - disenfranchisement can be permanent.
When Virginia introduced felony disenfranchisement in 1901, they also expanded the list of felony crimes. By raising the penalty for a number of minor offenses, they planned to lock African Americans in the prison system - and out of the political system. A century later, our drug laws have the same amplifying effect. African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for minor drug crimes, and therefore more likely to have their vote taken away.
The good news is that Delaware and other states are beginning to turn the tide. In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell has sped up the review process for those who have finished the terms of their sentence. So far he has restored the votes of more than 4,000 citizens. And Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who callously eliminated automatic restoration of voting rights early in his term, is now taking steps toward restoring those rights.
These are certainly steps in the right direction, but there is more work to do. Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida still allow permanent disenfranchisement, and 44 other states permit some level of felony disenfranchisement. You can learn about the law in your state. If you or someone in your community is affected, you can use that information to educate your family, your community and your elected officials about why this is an important issue.
Felony disenfranchisement is an affront to our democracy. Millions of people like Kemba Smith-Pradida - parents, workers, and community leaders - pay taxes, raise families and contribute to society. But they cannot fully participate in our democracy.
If poll taxes, literacy tests, and gumball-counting tests could be outlawed because of their racist intent, then felony disenfranchisement laws from the same era should be overturned today.
Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 21:33
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