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"I do not expect the white media to create a positive black-male image." -
Huey P. Newton
The NorthStar News & Analysis -
December 21, 2010
Jury Finds Tobacco Company Marketed Cigarettes To Black Children
Awards Lung Cancer Victim’s Estate And Son $71 Million
A Suffolk County, Mass., jury has awarded $71 million to the estate and the son of a black woman who died from lung cancer after determining that Lorillard Inc. offered free cigarettes to black children so they would develop a smoking habit.
The jury delivered its verdict Tuesday after hearing weeks of testimony. The jury awarded the estate of Marie Evans $50 million in compensatory damages and her son, Willie Evans, $21 million. Lawyers for Lorillard, which is based in Greensboro, N.C., and is the nation’s third-largest cigarette manufacturer, said they would appeal.
“Lorillard respectfully disagrees with the jury’s verdict and denies the plaintiff’s claim that the company sampled to children or adults at Orchard Park in the early 1960s,” said Gregg Perry, a company spokesperson. “The plaintiff’s 50-year-old memories were persuasively contradicted by testimony from several witnesses. The company will appeal and is confident it will prevail once the Massachusetts Court of Appeals reviews the case,” Perry said. Lorillard manufacturers Newport, Kent, True, Old Gold, Maverick and Max cigarettes.
Willie Evans alleged that Lorillard introduced his mother, Marie, to cigarettes as a child in the late 1950s, while she was living in Boston’s Orchard Park Housing Project.
Marie Evans gave a videotaped deposition three weeks before she died. She said she received her first free Newport cigarettes when she was nine-years old, and she began smoking at 13. She smoked for more than 40 years before dying of lung cancer at 54 in 2002. Marie Evans said she attempted to quit smoking 50 times, but she said she was “addicted.”
There is a high percentage of deaths from lung cancer among black men and black women, according to American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2009-2010."
According to the Cancer Society’s Surveillance Research, lung cancer was the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Death from breast cancer ranks first among cancer deaths of black women. There were an estimated 70,810 cancer deaths among black women in 2009, and lung cancer accounted for the 9,730 or 12 percent of cancer deaths.
Among black men, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. There were 32,020 estimated cancer deaths among black men in 2009, and lung cancer accounted for 3,690 or 12 percent of cancer deaths.
Organizations Want Florida To Issue Executive Order Restoring Voting Rights For Convicted Felons
The NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 12 other Florida-based and national organizations have urged the Florida Clemency Board to issue an executive order restoring voting rights to individuals who have served their sentences after having been convicted of non-violent felonies.
Lawyers for the organizations argue that previous efforts have failed to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their prison sentences.
“The 2007 promise of 'automatic approval' remains unfulfilled, leaving hundreds of thousands of Floridians who have no history of violent offenses barred from the democratic process. With this, Executive Order, the Board would honor its promise,” said Muslima Lewis, the ACLU’s senior attorney and director of the Racial Justice and Voting Rights Projects.
Three years ago, Florida restored voting rights for convicted felons who had completed their prison sentences. The change dismantled centuries of Jim Crow laws enacted after the Civil War that denied black men who were convicted of felonies the right to vote, serve on juries and run for public office. Twenty-three states have eased restoration of voting rights for former felons who have completed their prison sentences, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates sentencing and prison reform.
Although the 2007 effort was a good first step, the ACLU said the restoration of voting rights in Florida is working much too slowly.
In the 16 months between July 1, 2009, and Oct. 1, 2010, the caseload of non-violent felons who are seeking restoration of their voting rights has grown from fewer than 57,000 pending cases to more than 90,000 pending cases because the Florida Parole Commission does not have sufficient staff to process the applications, the group wrote in a Dec. 3, 2010, letter mailed to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and three other state-elected officials.
“Individuals with past non-violent felony convictions now have to wait up to three years or more to have their rights restored,” the groups said. The organizations argue that during a time of economic crisis for Florida, the state is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to process cases of the thousands of state residents who do not have a history of violent offenses.
“Further, delaying restoration of civil rights for those who are eligible for 'automatic approval' directly and negatively impacts the individual’s re-entry and his/her ability to become contributing and productive member of the community,” the letter said.
The organizations added: “Automatic civil rights restoration would mean that immediately upon the effective date of the order, all persons with Level 1, non-violent offenses, who have completed the non-monetary terms of his/her sentence, would become immediately eligible to register to vote, serve on a jury, and serve in public office.” The organizations want the current Clemency Board to issue the order before a new board takes office in January 2011.
The NAACP National Voter Fund, Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Orange County Florida Branch of the NAACP, The Sentencing Project, The Brennan Center For Justice at New York University Law School, the Orlando, Fla., Chapter of the National Congress of Black Women, the Central Florida Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and several other organizations signed the letter.
In a related matter, a Milwaukee, Wis., judge has ordered a voting rights hearing for two black men who have been denied the right to vote because they are serving felony probation.
Circuit Court Judge Richard Sankovitz said Michael Henderson, 41, and Olando Maclin, 53, have the right to prove that Wisconsin’s law violates federal law because of an inherent bias in the state’s law. Earlier this year, police charged both men with voting in the 2008 fall election before they completed the terms of their felony probations.
Paul Ksicinski, their lawyer, sought to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that the state’s felon disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional and contrary to the Voting Rights Act. Judge Sankovitz allowed the case to proceed based on the allegation Wisconsin’s law may violate the Voting Rights Act.
Schomburg Center To Honor Howard Dodson
The Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture will hold a tribute to Howard Dodson, who is retiring next year after serving as director of the New York-based center since 1984.
The tribute, which also will celebrate the Schomburg Center’s 85th anniversary, is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2011 at Lincoln Center. Dr. Khalil Muhammad will succeed Dodson as director effective July 2011.
The Schomburg Center is a research unit of the New York Public Library.
Michael Steele Launches A Website To Push His Re-election
Michael Steele, who is running for re-election as chairman of the Republican National Committee, has launched a website, touting his accomplishments during his first two years in office.
“We’ve got a big job to do and thanks to you, the American People, 2010 was a watershed year for Republicans and our conservative, limited government movement,” Steele said. “We’ve elected 63 new members to take control of the House, 13 new Senators, setting the stage for a 2012 attack, and more than 600 new state legislators.”
Steele announced in early December that he planned to run for re-election (
The NorthStar News & Analysis, December 14, 2010
). The website address is
Tracy Morgan Undergoes Kidney Transplant Surgery
Actor Tracy Morgan recently underwent kidney transplant surgery. The 42-year-old Morgan is expected to miss two to three March episodes of “30 Rock,” the NBC hit comedy series. Morgan was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996. A spokesperson said the actor is recovering well from surgery.
A Black Man Turned Potatoes Into Potato Chips
The potato chip, the most-successful salty snack food, was invented on Aug. 24, 1853, by a black man.
George Crum, chef at Cary Moon’s Lake Lodge or Lake House in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was fed up with one of lodge’s guests, believed to be Commander Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate, sending back Crum’s fried potatoes. Vanderbilt complained the potatoes were soggy and cut too thickly.
In response, an angry Crum sliced the potatoes wafer thin and deep fried them. He was sure Vanderbilt would hate them, but the opposite happened. Vanderbilt loved the thin fired potatoes flavored with salt.
Vanderbilt suggested that the Cary Moon Lake Lodge add the chips to its menu. The owners agreed, and Saratoga Chips became the restaurant’s signature offering.
Potato chips are now an American snack-food staple. Consumers eat 1.2 billion pounds of potato chips annually, spending $6 billion for the product. That’s just in the United States, potato chips are popular worldwide. In the United Kingdom, they are called crisps. Consumers there annually eat 6 billion bags of crisps.
In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs that catered to a well-heeled crowd. Diners included Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Henry Hilton, the nation’s Robber Barons. Crum died in 1914 at the age of 92.
For decades, food historians refused to acknowledge that Crum was black. His father was black and his mother was a Huron Indian, a tribe native to the Saratoga Springs area. Most Historians said Crum was Native American, but they deliberately failed to acknowledge his black father, Abraham Speck. The elder Speck, a jockey, often used the last name Crum. The younger Crum's mother was Catherine Speck.
Crum’s life is captured in the children’s book,
George Crum and The Saratoga Chip
by author Gaylia Taylor, who lives in Norfolk, Va. Frank Morrison illustrated the book. It is available on the website
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