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Family Who Won $429 Million Lottery Aims To Use Money To Fight Poverty

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We’ve all fantasized about what we’d do if a few million dollars just found its way into our lives. For the Smith family of Trenton, New Jersey, philanthropy was at the top of their list after they won a $429 million Powerball jackpot last year.  At a post-win press conference last May, the family, which consists of Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children, said they planned to spend their earnings on their community ― and they meant it.

“It was like affirmation from God because we each have dreams that we want to fulfill in this life, and do for our community and do for each other and for our families and we have been funded to do that,” Smith’s daughter Valerie Arthur said during last year’s press conference, which you can watch above. 

The eight-person Smith family chose to collect their winnings in a lump sum as opposed to yearly installments, with each receiving about $25 million after taxes. After paying off bills, student loans and taking care of other financial obligations, they invested their money in Trenton through the Smith Family Foundation.

According to the foundation’s website, the family’s future in charity was inevitable. 

“The seeds for the foundation were planted decades ago in the South Side of Trenton, where Seamon and Pearlie Smith raised their children on values of hard work, love of God, and giving back,” the website reads.

Just one year after their win, the family celebrated the opening of their grant-making organization on Saturday, NJ.com reported. The foundation will provide financial support to education, neighborhood development, children and families in Trenton.

“We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” family member and foundation program manager Harold Smith told NJ.com. 

“Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food,” he said. 

“When people think of the city of Trenton, we don’t want the first thing they think of to be gangs and violence,” Smith continued. “We want people to think of a vibrant city, a city that’s on the upswing, a city that’s bringing new life into the community, the capital of the state.”

The foundation plans to work with other community organizations and help create both short- and long-term grants that will improve Trenton. 

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Retired Black Corrections Officer Accuses White Cops Of Beating Him During Mistaken Arrest

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A retired black corrections officer in New York state has accused two white police officers of racial profiling when they allegedly abused him, physically and verbally, during a mistaken arrest last week. He said he plans to sue.

Ronald Lanier, 53, was shopping in a Mineola supermarket on Nov. 30 when he alleges the officers grabbed him from behind without warning, Newsday reported. The Garden City police officers, whose district borders Mineola, were searching for a fleeing shoplifter, according to CBS 2 News.

At an emotional press conference last week, Lanier said he cooperated with the officers and identified himself as law enforcement. But he said they laughed and manhandled him as they placed him in handcuffs.

“I’ve never been cursed, physically abused, beaten and treated like a slave as I was two days ago,” Lanier said in tears.

Lanier’s attorney, Fred Brewington, slammed the officers’ alleged response as racial discrimination.

“They didn’t have a good description of who they were looking for. That doesn’t give you the right to go into a store and grab the first black person you see and throw them to the ground,” Brewington told 1010 WINS. “The fact that he happened to be a black male in the store does not make him a culprit. It does not make him a suspect.”

The fact that he happened to be a black male in the store does not make him a culprit. It does not make him a suspect.Fred Brewington, lawyer for Ronald Lanier

Lanier said he spent about 20 minutes inside a squad car before the officers let him go, without an apology or explanation. Another suspect had reportedly been taken into custody for the crime.

The former corrections officer, who worked for Long Island’s Nassau County, said he plans to file a lawsuit against the Garden City Police Department.

“I’m tired of hearing officers constantly talking about we have to retrain. They don’t need to be retrained. They need to be held accountable for their actions,” Lanier said at the press conference. He said he wants the officers to hand in their badges.

A spokesman for the Garden City police declined comment when reached by The Huffington Post Wednesday, pointing to the threatened lawsuit. Brewington was not immediately available for comment.

 

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Michael Brown’s Mom And Sister Graduate From High School On The Same Day

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The 2014 police killing of recent high school grad Michael Brown not only led to people across the country joining the fight for black lives, but it also motivated his mom to go back to school.

Lezley McSpadden dropped out of Ladue Horton Watkins High School her junior year after giving birth to Brown about two decades ago. McSpadden revealed this in a conversation with Jennings School District Superintendent Art McCoy, and he told her about the adult education program, saying, “What better way for you to honor your son than by obtaining your high school diploma?” according to CBS St. Louis. 

So McSpadden enrolled in the program in September, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchreported. She was working toward her diploma at Jennings High School along with her daughter, Deja Brown, though their schedules didn’t overlap.

“She would just go to afternoon class, so we never really interacted at school or in class or anything,” Brown told the St. Louis American. “But I did help her on homework. Like, math, she was like, ‘I’m stuck! I don’t understand this!’ so I would try to help her the best I could, because it was geometry, which I took already.”

The mother-daughter duo crossed the stage on the same day at Chaifetz Arena on May 26. McSpadden, who presented her daughter’s diploma, is the first graduate of the district’s adult program. 

Lezley McSpadden, mother of , presents her daughter Deja Brown with her diploma as both women graduated from @JenningsK12.

Brown, who will attend Tennessee State University in the fall to study to become a neonatal nurse, told the American that she’s proud of herself and her mother for finishing school.

“I know it’s something that she’s wanted to do,” she said. “She’s done it and she’s worked really hard, and she’s so excited and I’m excited for her!”

The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told the Post-Dispatch that the ceremony was especially meaningful considering the trauma the family has experienced. He said McSpadden told him she “has a purpose now to try to uphold the legacy of her son.”

Michael Brown was 18 years old when he was shot six times by white officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. His killing sparked days of protest in the predominantly black city. The unrest garnered national attention and Black Lives Matter protests spread throughout the country. In November 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.

 

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Politics Over Paycheck? The Life of a Black Host on Fox News

Black folks are, by and large, understanding when it’s time to get that paper. Whether it’s Barack Obama getting $400,000 to give a few speeches, athletes trying to sell $500 shoes—heck, even strippers on the pole—when it comes to jobs, most black people won’t bat an eye as long as it’s legal, profitable and isn’t a violation of core principles of decency.

In fact, there are only about three jobs in existence that, if announced at the cookout, would lead to significant side eye, conceited GIFs or a quick flash from a cellphone camera:

  1. Working in Donald Trump’s White House;
  2. Working for the Milwaukee, Ferguson, Mo., or Tulsa, Okla., Police Department;
  3. Or working at Fox News.

These are the places that are forever perceived, for good reason, as purveying direct violence, whether rhetorical, political or physical, against the African-American community. Yet logic dictates that inside these organizations, there have to be people just making a paycheck like anybody else would. I mean, not everybody working at the Death Star was evil, right? You figure the entire staff of Hydra didn’t want to rule the world; some just needed good health care, didn’t they?

With that in mind, we spoke to an employee of a perceived “Evil Empire,” Eboni K. Williams of Fox News. Williams was recently promoted from regular contributor to co-host of Fox News’ newest show, The Specialists, which debuted this month, airing Monday through Friday at 5 p.m.

In the wake of massive scandals about sexual harassment, racial discrimination and “fake news” charges, we asked Williams what it is like to be one of the few black faces at Fox; how she tries to be an advocate for the issues that matter; and if she’s been formally uninvited from every family barbecue until Trump leaves office.

The Root: Tell us a little about yourself. I know you’re a lawyer, you were first runner-up in North Carolina for Miss USA a few years ago and you’re the first black woman to co-host a show on Fox News in prime time. But that’s all résumé stuff; how did you get to where you are now ?

Eboni K. Williams: I’m a trial lawyer by trade, I was a loud mouth in school and teachers always paid attention to me when I raised my hand. Plus, my mom was incarcerated for a year when I was 3 years old, so I saw some personal reasons for good legal counsel. Trial work was rewarding; I loved my work as a public defender and a private attorney. But then I started thinking about media. The benefit of media is that it’s fast; I could make a difference. I could tell a judge, or I could tell Bill O’Reilly in front of millions of people.

TR: You would be speaking to millions of a certain kind of people—conservative, mostly older, white people whose politics and information levels are often at odds with mainstream America. It would be one thing if you were an African-American conservative, but you’re not; you’re pretty moderate or center left. Why did you make the choice to go to Fox News?

 

EKW: I went to NABJ [the National Association of Black Journalists conference] in Orlando in 2013 trying to break into this industry—I thought a lot about who are we making content for. We make content for us as black people because what white people think about us doesn’t really matter, right? But what white people think of us matters a lot, particularly when you’ve got 12 in a box [a jury].

That was the summer of George Zimmerman’s case. The prosecutors were really poor in their ability to humanize young Trayvon Martin. I felt like, if those jurors had a more normalized concept of black people, in particular in those kind of environments, it would make a difference. For the first two years I was on Fox, I wasn’t paid. If I had been on MSNBC or CNN, it might’ve been more comfortable, but it wouldn’t have necessarily fit in with my mission. I wanted to get in front of audiences that usually don’t see us.

TR: What has been your gender and race experience internally at Fox News? Have you been directly involved or seen some of the behavior that led to lawsuits?

EKW: Ultimately, those have not been my personal experiences. I do recognize that both of those issues, both race- and genderwise, even if I have not experienced those specific instances, we [at Fox] do have a problem. What I see as my role, as a current employee in the midst of these horrific challenges and circumstances, is to make change. I have gone to human resources and given them very plainspoken ways in which they can improve upon those dynamics, and ways to make it easier to report those instances.

 

I never had that experience with Bill O’Reilly—but I will not, nor will I ever, suggest that my experience with Bill O’Reilly is reflective on everyone’s experiences. He treated me as a professional—moody, but as a professional—but I don’t for one second kid myself to think that is Bill O’Reilly in his totality.

TR: You’re now a co-host on The Specialists, which airs Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern time. This is a very high-profile position and a first at the network. The perception among many is that black folks working at Fox News are either co-signing some of the worst rhetoric at the network or are powerless to do anything about it. As a contributor and now host, how do you feel when the network consistently gives a platform to racists whose beliefs aren’t challenged?

EKW: How does it feel? My answer is, it feels like shit, but I have decided that for me, it has some value to correct the record on occasion. My experience has been that the longer I am in front of the Fox News audience, the more I get that opportunity [to correct the record]. A gentle but consistent reminder of what the facts really are.

TR: What do you say to the people who say you’re wasting your time? That you’re not going to change any minds, especially in the era of Trump?

EKW: I wouldn’t dispute that I can’t drown it all out. What I still have some belief in is that I will still be able to have some impact for some people. So am I going to magically change all this discourse and change their entire viewership into sympathizers of Black Lives Matter? No. But I do think that there is a portion of the viewership—it’s not just me; it’s Juan Williams, it’s Richard Fowler—by seeing a few black voices that speak about an authentically black experience, that there will be some viewers that will change. Especially when these people are determining real consequences [like on a jury]. That’s where that little bit of incremental movement might matter.

TR: Since joining Fox News full time, what’s your public relationship been like with the African-American community?

EKW: I mean, you just caught me between watching the One and Not Done ESPN doc on John Calipari and switching to the Miss America pageant. That’s pretty much me. There are those who knew me all along when I was on TV One and Aspire; they are completely lovely; they express pride and pleasure because they know what I’m trying to do.

Fox’s black viewership is hovering around 1.5 percent; if you don’t watch Fox News and you haven’t seen me on, then you really have no context. I would implore those who have never seen me on, before they make presumptions—and I understand that some of those are completely legitimate—that black folks should be able to choose where they work. I’m not saying “Rah-rah, Fox News, turn it on!” Just remember to check out the bigger picture, the bigger landscape. At least you can have a more informed conclusion. I get this hour Monday through Friday to pitch my thoughts, my analysis and my pitches that more accurately reflect my and our experiences.

 

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Trump leaves three words out of his Saudi Arabia speech

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President Donald Trump gave a highly-anticipated address to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad on Sunday. One phrase candidate Trump repeated countlessly on the campaign trail was missing: "radical Islamic terrorism."

Trump stressed the need to build a coalition to address a "crisis of Islamic extremism," but neglected to use the charged keystone of his campaign trail rhetoric in his speech to 50 Middle Eastern leaders.

Before his victory and after taking office, Trump repeatedly bashed former President Barack Obama and then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase. As a candidate, Trump argued that Obama's insistence not to use the term to refer to terrorist attacks committed in the name of groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda showed he wasn't well-equipped to fight terrorism.

In the past, American presidents, diplomats, and foreign policy experts have argued that it hurts the US' goals abroad and undermines Muslim allies.

On Sunday, Trump largely stuck to the script, closely following the prepared remarks that the White House sent out before his speech, refraining from riffing like he so often did at campaign rallies.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."

Announcing a new center to combat the financing of terrorism, Trump emphasized the need for nations to collaborate to "honestly" confront "the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." He also used the phrases "the Islamists" and "Islamic terror of all kinds."

The White House has characterized the trip as an effort to strengthen ties between the US and Middle East, and "reset" relations with the region.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also urged the president not to say "radical Islamic terrorism," arguing that militant groups like ISIS endorse a twisted view of Islam and that the phrase ultimately hinders US goals, according to CNN.

He also seemed to suggest that Trump would not be using the phrase during his speech. "The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" on Saturday.

"But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people," he continued. "And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."

 

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