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Howard University Student Protesters

Howard University Student Protesters

Something just didn’t add up — the union of a proud black university and a top Republican strategist and troublemaker credited with one of the most racist presidential campaign schemes of recent memory.

Harvey Leroy Lee Atwater

Harvey Leroy "Lee" Atwater died from brain tumor in 1991

But there it was in news accounts carried across the nation: Howard University names Republican National Committee Chairman (“RNC”) Lee Atwater to its board of trustees. Atwater had just engineered the 1988 presidential victory of George H.W. Bush and had crafted the racist Willie Horton Ad that helped seal his win. …

The news hit the community like a ton of bricks. Black folks were already a little depressed that Bush won and would likely continue the backward politics of the Reagan administration. But why, would Howard University sell out and give Atwater a platform for his policies?

Luckily, the Howard student body came to the rescue. I’m not a Howard under-graduate, but instead a proud Howard Law graduate. I’m an Aggie and my Aggie pride spilled over to the main campus when the young Bisons took over the Admin Building to protest Atwater’s appointment.

The small protest of Atwater’s appointment turned into a firestorm as Howard students took over the school’s main administration building for a sit-in. After a tense four days, and with campus police threatening a violent takeover of the building, Atwater resigned.

Dr. James E. Cheeks Former Howard University President

Dr. James E. Cheeks Former Howard University President

Later that year, Howard President James E. Cheek, who hatched the failed Atwater appointment, also resigned.

In 1997, Cheeks was forced to take shelter in U.S. Bankruptcy Court when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) probed his role in the 1991 collapse of the university-owned United National Bank. Cheek was a member of its board of directors.

The FDIC charged Cheek with gross negligence, among other things, and won a $1.8 million judgement against him and his estate. Possessions of former Howard University President, including those from the period he served as head of the nation’s largest Black university, were put up for auction.

Dr. Cheek currently lives in Greensboro, NC.

Atwater died in 1991 of a brain tumor.

The Howard University Alumni will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the student protests March 26 and 27 at the Blackburn Center on the Howard University campus. And it is an event well worth remembering.

Those days reminded me of the civil rights protest of the 1960′s. Whether the issue was divestment of university holdings in apartheid South Africa or the appointment of a suspected racist to a leadership position at a black university, students wasted no time in making their voices heard.

The spirit continues today and is evident by the overwhelming support President Obama received on college campuses across the country. This burst of activism will no doubt ignite another wave of student action like the one that saved Howard University from Lee Atwater 20 years ago.

Embattled RNC Chairman Michael Steele

Embattled RNC Chair Michael Steele

Rush Oxycotin Limbaugh

Rush "Oxycotin" Limbaugh

Incidently, Atwater held the same position that Michael Steele holds today. It’s not known how long Steele will remain in that position for there is a protest going on now within the Republican party as to whether he carries the confidence of the current Republican party that is led by Rush “Oxycotin” Limbaugh.

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    Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 5:16 am. Add a comment

    Accuser and Wrongly Convicted Man Now Friends

    Posted Mar 11th 2009 10:00AM by Carmen Dixon
    Filed under: BlackSpin, News

    Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson

    Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson

    If you’re searching for an example of what open hearts can achieve, then look no further than the story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton.

    When Thompson identified Cotton as her rapist in 1984, she was sure she had the right man. But she was wrong. Cotton, then 22, was convicted of raping Thompson and another woman on the same night in Burlington, N.C. He would spend the next 11 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

    That’s not so uncommon, right? We now know how unreliable eyewitness testimonies can be. That was the tragedy; now for the remarkable part:

    In 1995, DNA evidence cleared Cotton of the rapes and showed that another man who was in prison with him was the rapist, a case recently covered by CBS’ ’60 Minutes.’ Now, Thompson and Cotton are friends and have written a new book together on their story called ‘Picking Cotton.’ Source

    The two speak on the phone weekly and travel together to speak out on the problems with eyewitness evidence. Even their families are friends. Thompson said she felt horrible guilt when she found out Cotton was not her rapist. “Suffocating, debilitating shame,” she told ’60 Minutes.’ She asked Cotton if she could meet with him at a local church. “I started to cry immediately. And I looked at him, and I said, ‘Ron, if I spent every second of every minute of every hour for the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am, it wouldn’t come close to how my heart feels. I’m so sorry.’ And Ronald just leaned down, he took my hands…and he looked at me. He said, ‘I forgive you,’” Thompson told CBS. “I told her, I said, ‘Jennifer, I forgive you. I don’t want you to look over your shoulder. I just want us to be happy and move on in life,’”Cotton said. Source

    I hope none of us reading this will ever find ourselves in Cotton’s or Thompson’s position. But the path that these two chose to walk together stands as a beacon of conduct for all of us.

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      Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 3:12 am. Add a comment

      Pfc. LaVena Johnson: Why You Need to Know Her Story

      Pfc LaVena Johnson

      Pfc LaVena Johnson

      Any American with a television has heard the details of how Pat Tillman was mistakenly killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, despite the military’s best efforts to obscure that truth. But unless you are an avid blog reader, you may have never heard of Pfc. LaVena Johnson. Johnson, who died in 2005, is the first black woman soldier killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and much of the evidence related to her death indicates that she was brutally murdered.

      Those facts were initially concealed from the family by an official declaration that Johnson’s death was a suicide. From Jezebel via What About Our Daughters in July 2008:

      Private LaVena Johnson’s nose was broken, teeth were loose, one eye was concave and there were abrasions over her body. The supposed M-16 hole to the head was far too small for the revolver-sized exit wound and was on the wrong side of her skull for a right-handed woman to have pulled the trigger. Her genital area showed evidence of acid, perhaps used to destroy DNA evidence. She had white military gloves glued to her burned hands.

      Since then, the Army has continued to insist that the LaVena committed suicide by pointing her rifle with her nondominant hand at the side of her head and set herself on fire, all after she beat herself up and poured acid on her genitals… Oh, and there was a trail of blood leading away from the tent where her body was found. Source

      The blogosphere mobilized and online activists got busy.

      From Electronic Village

      Momentum is building in our efforts to gain Justice for LaVena Johnson!

      The love and persistence of her family in the three years since LaVena was killed has been remarkable. The online activism of Philip Barron of Wave Flux, Shakesville has been equally remarkable. In fact, it was Bro. Barron’s LaVena Johnson Petition that created the first call to action as he collected 12,000 signatures to be delivered to the Armed Services Committee.

      Original Villager Danielle Vyas created an online petition calling on Congress and the president to reopen her case. She plans to close out her online petition when it reaches 3,000 signatures. Currently, 1,837 signatures have been collected. Have you signed it yet? Online activism for LaVena Johnson gaining momentum.

      That was in July. The goal of 3,000 signatures was reached and surpassed. To date, the Johnson family continues to press for answers. No formal investigation has been launched into the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson.

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        Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 2:47 am. Add a comment