JACKSON, Miss. — More than 150 friends and family members mourned Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (SHOW-kway Lu-MOOM-bah) on Friday, remembering his career as a human rights activist, prominent attorney and black nationalist.
Lumumba was a onetime official of the Republic of New Afrika, a group that sought "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern U.S. Still an advocate for transformative economic and political changes, he moved into elective politics, rising to mayor in 2013.
"Our hearts are broken, but it's hard not to celebrate after knowing such a distinguished humanitarian," said Safiya Omari, his chief of staff, who presided over the ceremony.
The 66-year-old Lumumba, born in Detroit as Edwin Taliaferro, died Feb. 25 of natural causes, according to Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart. Lumumba, a Democrat, will be buried Saturday following a funeral service.
Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, on Friday ordered flags in Jackson to fly at half-staff Saturday.
"It didn't matter what you had and didn't have. Chokwe always had time and a kind work and maybe free legal advice for you," Omari said, drawing scattered laughs at the service behind the City Hall of Mississippi's largest city.
As Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes pointed out, Lumumba was mourned from the steps of an antebellum structure built by slaves.
Some of the speakers remembered Lumumba's legal work. Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs, a former Democratic lawmaker, recalled Lumumba persuading then-Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, to release sisters Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott from a Mississippi prison after they had served 16 years for an armed robbery they said they didn't commit
"I saw him be a man who saw wrong and tried to right it, but more than that, I saw a man of awesome integrity," Flaggs said.
As an attorney, Lumumba represented Tupac Shakur in cases including one in which the rapper was cleared of aggravated assault in the shootings of two off-duty police officers who were visiting Atlanta from another city when they were wounded. Shakur died in 1996.
Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP, was one of many who echoed Lumumba's slogan of "free the land," a heritage of Lumumba's membership in the Republic of New Afrika.
"When Chokwe said 'Free the land,' that's what he means — give freedom to everyone in the land," Jealous said.
Coltrane Chimurenga, who was acquitted in 1985 of charges that he and other black revolutionaries plotted to rob armored trucks and help people break out of jail, said people should honor Lumumba by action.
"We continue to say freedom. Freedom! Build. Love what Chokwe did by practice and not by words," Chimurenga said.
A special election has been called for April 8 to choose a new mayor, with a runoff to follow April 22 if needed.
One possible candidate is Lumumba's son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba. At Friday's event, Stokes endorsed the younger Lumumba, saying "his son should be the next mayor for this city." - (AP)
The College Board has announced major changes in the SAT college entrance exam for spring 2016, including switching from the 2,400-point system back to 1,600 points.
The new SAT will have two required portions — math as well as evidence-based reading and writing — that will be scored on a 1,600-point scale and a third optional section that is an essay and would have a separate score. The two required sections will take about three hours and the essay 50 minutes.
Currently, the SAT has three required sections, critical reading, math and writing, which includes a 25-minute essay. Each section is worth up to 800 points for a total of 2,400 points. The three combined take an hour and 45 minutes.
The 2,400-point scale took effect in 2005 when the new three-section test replaced the previous SAT that had two sections, verbal and math, worth a total of 1,600 points.
Other changes in the test announced today include:
• The SAT will be offered on paper and in digital forms. Currently, it is available only on paper.
• Students will have to support reading and writing answers with evidence, such as citing a specific portion of a passage. Currently, students only have to select an answer.
• Source documents will come from a wider range of academic disciplines, with every test including text from science, history and social studies. Every test will include text from one of America’s founding documents or the global conversations they have inspired.
• Vocabulary words will be ones “widely used in college and career” rather than the current array of words that are “sometimes obscure.”
• Sentence completions will be eliminated and replaced by analyzing “sequences of paragraphs to make sure they are correct, grammatically and substantively.”
• The essay will require a student to “analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience.” Currently, the essay is based on personal background and experiences without a way to check accuracy.
• Math questions will be based on three main topics rather than a wide array. The topics are “problem solving and data analysis; the heart of algebra; and passport to advanced math.”
• A calculator will be permitted only on certain portions of the math section. Currently it is permitted for all sections.
• Points won’t be subtracted for wrong answers. Currently, a quarter point is deducted for a wrong answer, but no points are deducted for a blank answer.
More details of the exam, including sample items for each section, are to be made available on April 16.
In announcing the changes, College Board president David Coleman announced other actions aimed at improving access.
The College Board is partnering with Khan Academy to provide free test-preparation materials for the new SAT so that any student can access test preparation courses. Khan Academy, which is online, has a mission of providing a free world-class education worldwide. It now reaches 10 million students per month, according to its website.
The College Board news release states Khan Academy will provide “sophisticated, interactive software that gives students deep practice and helps them diagnose their gaps.”
There also will be free test prep help at the Khan Academy for students taking the current exam.
In his prepared remarks, Mr. Coleman said, “The College Board cannot stand by while some test prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching.”
The College Board also announced fee waivers for college applications for income-eligible students who take the SAT. Qualifying students will be able to get four application fee waivers.
The College Board also has an “All In” campaign to encourage prepared African-American, Latino and Native Americans to take Advanced Placement or other advanced courses.
Mr. Coleman said many teachers see the ACT and SAT college entrance exams as fairly measuring their students’ work.
“It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” Mr. Coleman said.
The College board issued a “safe use warning” for the SAT, saying, “The SAT and exams like it should never be used alone to make decisions about a person’s life and future.” -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was blocked by bipartisan Senate opposition Wednesday in an emotional postscript to the long-ago murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the legal help his killer received.
The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47-52, shy of the majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place late last year to overcome Republican stalling tactics.
In this case, though, to the dismay of civil rights organizations and the White House, Democratic desertions played a decisive role in the outcome. Eight members of Obama's party joined all 44 Republicans in preventing a final vote.
Obama swiftly condemned the action. In a statement, he called it a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."
Administration officials left open the possibility the nomination would be withdrawn rather than put to a second vote, although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is positioned to call for one after changing his "yes" to "no" in a last-minute procedural move.
Adegbile, a longtime official at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was praised by supporters for his legal skills and critics leveled few if any objections to his record as an advocate for voting rights cases who has argued before the Supreme Court.
But Republicans, backed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, said Adegbile's connection with the legal case of Mumia Abu-Jamal disqualified him from holding high public office.
Shortly before the vote, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., read from a letter written by Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the policeman Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing. "Today, as my husband lies 33 years in his grave, his killer has become a wealthy celebrity," she wrote.
"Old wounds have once again been ripped open, and additional insult is brought upon our law enforcement community in this country by President Obama's nomination of Debo Adegbile."
Supporters of the nomination, including prominent civil rights groups and their allies in the Senate, sought to turn the focus to other instances in which unsavory or controversial defendants received top-shelf legal representation.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that a Founding Father, John Adams, "made the very unpopular decision to represent a British solider on the eve of the Revolutionary War." He added that when Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed to a lower court position in 2003, "not one senator raised a concern about (him) providing pro-bono representation to a man who had been convicted of killing eight people and was awaiting execution on Florida's death row."
Supporters also noted that while Adegbile was working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 2006, when it first intervened in the case years after Abu-Jamal had been convicted, the decision to join the effort was made by another official. In addition, they said that by then, the death sentence in the case had long since been overturned.
He was at the organization from 2004-2013, serving as director of litigation from 2010-2012 and later as acting president. The organization filed a brief on Abu-Jamal's behalf in 2006, and represented him beginning in 2011, near the end of a 30-year legal struggle that resulted in a lifetime prison sentence.
Adegbile, who works at the Senate Judiciary Committee, was informed in advance of the vote that he was short of enough firm commitments to be assured of confirmation.
Republicans were relentless.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, recited the details of Faulkner's death in detail. The policeman was "conducting a routine traffic stop when Wesley Cook — also known as Mumia Abu-Jamal — shot him in the back. He then stood over Officer Faulkner and shot him several more times in the chest.
"As Officer Faulkner lay dying in the street, defenseless, Abu-Jamal shot him in the face, killing him. At the hospital, Abu-Jamal bragged that he had shot Officer Faulkner and expressed his hope that he would die."
Abu-Jamal was originally convicted and sentenced to death in state court, but a federal district court vacated the death penalty in a ruling upheld by an appeals court and let stand by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Underscoring the political element of the controversy, Senate supporters noted that the judge who initially overturned the death penalty and two appeals court judges who upheld it had been appointed by Republican presidents.
Republicans hinted strongly the vote would play a role in the 2014 midterm elections for control of Congress.
GOP chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that Abegbile had been "a convicted cop killer's most ardent defender," and said several Democrats seeking new terms in swing states had voted to advance the nomination.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights advocate, issued a statement that took the opposite view. The Democrats who voted with Republicans are guilty of "a betrayal that should not go unanswered," it said.
Apart from Reid, the Democrats who helped bottle up the nomination were Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana.
Pryor and Walsh are seeking new terms this fall, as is Coons. His state is close by the Philadelphia area, where the killing took place.
Vice President Joe Biden, who presided over the vote, would have been available to break a tie if one had occurred. -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama is bringing together an impressive group of female artists for a White House concert celebrating women of soul.
The lineup for Thursday's concert includes Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monae (Moe-NAY'). Also performing will be Tessanne (tess-ANN') Chin, Ariana Grande (GRON'-day) and Jill Scott.
The show will be streamed live Thursday night on the White House web site, and broadcast April 7th on PBS stations as "Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House."
It is designed to celebrate what the White House describes as great "foremothers" of American music, with songs exploring the struggles and achievements of women.
In connection with the concert, the White House will hold a workshop for students to learn about the history of women in soul. -- (AP)
The management company and West's label announced Monday that Roc Nation will work alongside West's production house, DONDA, on managing the Grammy-winning superstar's music endeavors. Izvor Zivkovic will continue to manage West as well.
Roc Nation manages Rihanna, Shakira, Timbaland and other acts.
West burst on the music scene as a producer on Jay Z's albums, and the two eventually collaborated on various songs and albums.
West officially launched DONDA in 2011, and it is named after his late mother, Donda West. The rapper has used the company to design the technology for his latest tours and to produce the "Cruel Summer" short film. -- (AP)