More protests break out in St. Louis after acquittal in police shooting

Protesters marched through an upscale St. Louis-area shopping mall on Saturday and the rock group U2 canceled a concert hours after police clashed with a crowd outraged over the acquittal of a white former policeman accused of murdering a black man.

In a second day of protests over the judge's ruling in the 2011 shooting death, hundreds of people chanted "Shut it down" and waved fists in the air as they snaked through the West County Center in the St. Louis suburb of Des Peres.

Police officers were out in force but there were no skirmishes, unlike the previous night, when nine city officers and a state trooper were injured, and at least 23 people were taken into custody during the clashes.

"We don't want to see property destruction or see people getting hurt," Elad Gross, 29, a St. Louis civil rights attorney said on Saturday as protesters gathered in a park before going to the mall. "But this is a protest that addresses injustices not only happening here in St. Louis but around the country."

On Friday, Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley, 36, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.

The verdict and the subsequent protests come about three years after rioting broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson when an unarmed teenager was shot dead by a white police officer. That killing touched off a nationwide soul-searching over law enforcement's use of force against African-Americans, the mentally ill and other groups.

After the ruling on Friday afternoon, around 600 chanting protesters marched from the courthouse through downtown St. Louis, some of them holding "Black Lives Matter" signs.

Later, some of protesters broke windows at a library and two restaurants, and threw bricks and bottles at officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. At one point, protesters also threw rocks and paint at the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, police said.

Following the violence, rock band U2 canceled a concert scheduled for Saturday night in St. Louis, citing safety concerns for fans who would have attended.


Smith was shot five times in his car after attempting to elude Stockley and his partner, who had chased the suspect after an alleged drug deal, authorities said.

During the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.

Stockley believed that Smith was armed, defense attorneys said, and a gun was found in the car. But prosecutors argued Stockley planted the weapon and the gun had only Stockley's DNA on it.

Stockley, who left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013 and was arrested last year, had waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide.

"This court, as a trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant's guilt," Judge Wilson wrote in his ruling.

Smith's family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $900,000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith's fiancée, Christina Wilson. 



Supreme Court Puts Redrawing Of Texas Electoral Maps On Hold

In August, a federal court struck down two GOP-drawn congressional districts saying they were discriminatory.

An ideologically divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a win to Republicans in Texas by putting on hold rulings that said electoral districts drawn by state lawmakers discriminated against minority voters.

On a 5-4 vote, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and the liberal justices dissenting, the court in a brief order blocked two different lower court decisions that found fault with both congressional districts and state legislative districts drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

In August, a federal court in Texas struck down two Republican-drawn congressional districts saying they were discriminatory and ordering new maps to be drawn ahead of elections in 2018.

The court said the 27th and 35th congressional districts were drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Texas has 36 districts, with Republicans holding 25 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats 11.

The August decision and a similar ruling on the state legislative districts will both remain on hold, meaning no new districts will be drawn in the interim while the high court considers Texas’ appeal in the cases.

Voting rights advocates say the Republican lawmakers drew up the districts to undermine the influence of racial minority voters, who typically show more support for Democrats than Republicans.



Justice Department Will Not Charge Police Officers Involved In Freddie Gray’s Death

“It’s not surprising. Police officers still continue to get a free pass to killing black people,” said one activist. 

New Financial Center Identifies HBCUs To Impact Black Wealth

Fisk University will be the first HBCU to participate in a new program offered by The Center for Financial Advancement designed to elevate African-American wealth.

The program launches this semester at the Nashville university with the goal to “elevate money management skills, teach students about credit and homeownership plus position many for a financially rewarding career in the mortgage industry,” according to a press release.

The program is a collaboration between Wells Fargo, Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Bank of America, and HomeFree-USA, a HUD-approved non-profit organization that specializes in homeownership development, foreclosure intervention and financial coaching.

“There is desire in the African-American community to move up and to uplift ourselves. We just need a little bit of guidance, some direction and just a bit of advice,” said HomeFree-USA President/CEO Marcia Griffin, a Fisk alumna and founder of the new program.

“The reality is this: Money is made off the backs of those who don’t know. The less we know, the more somebody’s going to make off of us. The less we know, the more opportunity there is for rip off. I’m here to show the mortgage, real estate, and finance industries what we can do – not just HomeFree-USA, but what HBCUs can produce.”

Griffin believes the training of the next generation of mortgage financiers by HBCUs could be pivotal. The need to expand diversity and inclusion in the mortgage industry will be crucial as the face of the typical homebuyer is changing and as the population of America becomes increasingly brown, says a statement announcing the program. A 2015 study by the Stratmor Group found:
• The average age of a mortgage loan officer is 47.
• About 10 percent of loan officers are over the age of 60 while only 3.3 percent are younger than 30.
• Only 10 percent of loan officers who reported their ethnicity were Hispanic or Latino, and only 3 percent identified as Black or African-American, while 81 percent self-identified as White.

Organizers of the new center say it aims to address all of these racial disparities and more.Organizers of the new center say it aims to address all of these racial disparities and more.

“The benefits in this partnership are two-fold,” said David H. Stevens, President/CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “African-American students will develop important money management and financial literacy skills, while also having the opportunity to explore a career in the real estate finance field.  At the same time, the industry will benefit from an influx of better educated potential homeowners, not to mention an influx of diverse new talent into the industry who can bring homeownership opportunities in traditionally underserved communities.”

Disparities in homeownership is “the biggest driver of the racial wealth gap,” concludes a Brandeis University study on the roots of the widening wealth gap. The study also points to “toxic inequality” rooted in policies and tax preferences that “favor the affluent.” This kind of information – typically unknown to many in the Black community – will be taught in the Center for Financial Advancement.

“We are proud to be part of this effort to prepare more African-Americans for successful careers in the mortgage industry while also promoting financial literacy that can lead to an increase in African-American homeownership,” said Brad Blackwell, executive vice president; Housing Policy and Homeownership Growth Strategies, Wells Fargo, the founding supporter of the Center for Financial Advancement. “Wells Fargo recognizes the important role a diverse workforce plays in making homeownership possible for people in all communities.”

Ranked within the top 10 of HBCUs by U. S. News and World Report, Fisk’s President Dr. Kevin Rome, in an interview with The Tennessean, pointed to “entrepreneurial opportunities” as a possible strategy for growth on campus. 

The more than 700 students from all majors on the 40-acre campus will have the opportunity to use the center.

Griffin envisions the Center as a growing program, which will gradually expand to other HBCU campuses. 

She also notes that the Center is not just for students, but also for parents, faculty and the community on HBCU campuses. “Because we are in the real estate and financial services business, anything that we can do for and with the families in terms of buying a home, keeping a home, credit enhancement or anything financial. That’s a part of the package.”


N.C. A&T Enrolls Largest Student Body Ever With Growth at All Levels

Enrollment at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University surged to 11,877 in the fall term that just began, expanding the student body to its largest size ever and adding significantly to a growth trend that began in 2013, school officials announced Wednesday.

The growth rate this fall of 6.3 percent means that over the past five years, N.C. A&T has added more than 1,300 students in direct response to A&T Preeminence 2020, the institution’s strategic plan, which A&T began implementing in 2011. That document calls for the Land Grant university to expand to an overall enrollment of 13,500 over the next three years.

This fall alone adds 700 students to A&T’s overall headcount – one of the single biggest increases in A&T history – and almost certainly cements the university’s status as America’s largest historically black college or university, a status it has held since 2014.

“The growth we’re experiencing this fall illustrates how much students, parents and families want to be part of the North Carolina A&T experience,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We deliver an education that not only prepares our students for rewarding careers in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we deeply value each and every individual who entrusts us with that responsibility. Our students know that their success matters here.”

The university’s growth was driven in large part by 2,309 new freshmen, the largest first-year class in N.C. A&T history, as well as its most academically accomplished, with an average GPA of 3.51, average SAT score of 1,023 and average ACT of 20.

And that’s not all. The university also enrolled 822 new transfer students, up from 730 last year, and 1,536 students at the masters and doctoral levels, up from 1,509 last year. Rated a doctoral university with higher research activity by the Carnegie Foundation, A&T offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide breadth of disciplines, with nationally recognized strengths in STEM education.

A&T’s enrollment growth comes not only in the university’s traditional student base, but in all other racial and ethnic demographics. While 78 percent of this fall’s student body is African American, the remaining 22 percent represent other races and ethnicities. About 7 percent of this year’s student body is white, a little more than 4 percent is Hispanic and over 3 percent are international students from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

University leaders say prospective students are increasingly drawn by educational opportunities at A&T in programs such as Engineering, Nursing and Biology, as well as by the return on investment for an A&T education. Earlier this year, for instance, the compensation analysis firm PayScale released data showing that A&T graduates earn more right out of school than those of all but one other North Carolina public university.

A&T’s relentless drive toward fulfillment of Preeminence 2020 is resulting in some of the plan’s goals already being realized, three years ahead of schedule. For instance, the strategic plan set an undergraduate enrollment goal of 10,000 by 2020, which the university has now surpassed, with 10,341 undergrads enrolled this fall.

Another goal calls for A&T to award 500 degrees annually across science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. Last year, the university awarded more than 660.

The university is not only growing by attracting new students, but by retaining those already enrolled. The percentage of first-year students who continued this fall from the 2016 cohort, for instance, increased by 3.5 percent over the cohort for the prior year.

To accommodate the university’s planned expansion, A&T is adding to its campus facilities. Under construction since 2014, the 150,000-square foot Student Center will open in the spring, providing a new home for student services, organizations, meeting rooms and amenities in a complex that will be the campus’s largest building.

Later this fall, demolition will begin to make way for the $90-million Engineering Research and Innovation Complex (ERIC), a facility made possible by the Connect NC bond referendum that voters passed in 2016. ERIC will be the primary home for the A&T College of Engineering, which already produces more African American engineers than any university in the nation.

Other facilities are due to be built or renovated in coming years, including additional student housing. Likewise, the university is planning additional degree programs that will further diversify its academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

“This is truly an exciting time to be an Aggie,” Martin said. “We are witnessing the benefits of the hard work invested by our faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as the guidance of our Board of Trustees and the investment of our private supporters. And there’s much more work to be done.” 




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