Author: Naomi Hall

Louisiana voters took a stand for justice during the November election when they moved to end a Jim Crow era law that allowed juries to convict or acquit defendants without a unanimous decision. Reports showed the law disproportionately affected black defendants. Newly approved, Louisiana State Amendment 2 requires juries to reach a unanimous decision in all non-capital felony cases. It takes effect January 1, 2019 and will only apply to crimes committed and brought to trial from that day forward. Prior to 1898, jury decisions were unanimous, but lawmakers were explicit in their racist reason for the change during the…

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Hate seemed to fill news headlines in October. The nation saw the most deadly synagogue attack in the nation’s history in Pennsylvania, a self-proclaimed racist targeted and killed black shoppers in Kentucky, and an extremist mailed bombs to President Barack Obama, Former Attorney General Eric Holder and other prominent leaders across the country. Teaching tolerance, it seems, is as necessary as ever.  The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released a report this summer that showed reported hate crimes have risen for four consecutive years in some major cities. Researchers have found that empathy is an effective tool in…

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Henrietta Lacks was a rural Virginian, wife and mother of five who sought treatment for cervical cancer from John Hopkins University in 1951. The hospital was one of a few that would serve African American patients in the south at that time. Unbeknownst to Ms. Lacks and without her permission, doctors who biopsied her cancerous tumor used her distinctive cells for research. Ms. Lacks succumbed to cervical cancer October 4, 1951 at the age of 31. Her family lived in poverty for many years, as her tissue sample fueled millions of dollars in medical innovation.  Years, after her death, the Lacks…

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This October, which is Black History Month in Great Britain, those living in the United Kingdom have an additional reason to celebrate. The British Government is considering a plan to compensate residents of Caribbean descent for disenfranchisement they experienced when their British citizenship was wrongfully questioned recently. The British government is currently gathering feedback regarding a compensation plan and is scheduled to make a decision in November, according to a UK government press release.  The move comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May officially apologized in April, for what is referred to as the Windrush Scandal. The Windrush Scandal refers…

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The chief executive officer of Merck & Company, who is one of only three black Fortune 500 CEOs in the nation, will stay on the job past 2019. Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck since 2011, would have been subjected to the company’s mandatory retirement policy when he turned 65 in 2019, but the board recently scrapped their policy to keep Frazier at the helm. “CEO succession has been our top priority and removing the mandatory retirement policy enables the Board to make the best decision concerning the timing of that transition,” said Leslie A. Brun, lead director, speaking for Merck’s…

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Experimental drugs go through research phases called clinical trials before the Food and Drug Administration approves them for general use. Chances are slim, however, that those clinical trials included African American test subjects. For reasons not fully understood, less than 10 percent of volunteers who participate in clinical trials are members of an ethnic minority, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity. By volunteering for a clinical study, participants gain access to new therapies not yet available to the public. And drug companies are able to determine whether their medications work the…

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The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe in Louisiana’s water-logged Isle de Jean Charles are considered America’s first climate refugees.  The ocean has claimed the Isle de Jean Charles, a peninsula which has been home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe in Louisiana for generations. The community has long struggled with flooding and land erosion for years, but faced the reality of a rising ocean. Acting on an offer of help from US officials, the entire  community resettled north to higher ground in what was once Louisiana sugar cane fields, and let the Gulf of Mexico reclaim their town.   Experts are predicting the U.S. will see…

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