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DeVos’ Speech at Bethune-Cookman’s Commencement Sparks Protests

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Political Editor – LeNora Millen

Bethune-Cookman University graduates turned their backs, booed and walked out during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ 22- minute commencement speech on Wednesday.  Graduates participating in the protests were intent making it known they did not want Devos, as a representative of the Trump administration, to speak on their special day.

The university’s president, Edison O. Jackson, stopped the ceremony for approximately one minute into Ms. DeVos’s address to tell the crowd of students, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.”

Students and alumni protested DeVos’ scheduled appearance as commencement speaker for little over a week. Her remarks in February that historically black colleges and universities “are real pioneers when it comes to school choice” sparked outrage in the African-American community.  Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded during the segregation-era when minorities weren’t allowed to attend the same institutions as whites.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Wednesday.

DeVos walked back her comments, later stating, “Providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of HBCUs.”

DeVos also faced backlash after her appointment of Attorney Candice Jackson as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights. The new acting head of the department once complained that she experienced discrimination because she was white

On Monday after HBCU was incorrectly spelled “HCBU” in a message from DeVos on the Education Department’s website, outrage and anger were expressed across social media.  The error has since been corrected.

Above the jeers, DeVos delivered the exhortation to graduates to live a life of service, with courage and grace in the spirit of their school’s namesake.

DeVos spoke to graduates on the importance of following in the footsteps of founder Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, and civil rights activist, founder of the National Council of Negro Women and an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you, and particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here,” DeVos said. “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.”

DeVos implored, “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”

The crowd obliged only a few times during her roughly 20-minute-speech.

Faculty at Bethune-Cookman University stood in solidarity behind DeVos as she spoke. University President Edison Jackson stood with arms folded and eyes fixated on protesters while audience members booed and graduates stood with their backs turned.

Hadiya Bomani, a graduate and member of Delta Sigma Theta who turned her back to DeVos, said the issue is deeper than the commencement speech.

“It’s more so the university that we have an issue with at the fact that they brought her to our celebration,” Bomani said. “It wasn’t time for them to make a political decision on our behalf, it was a time to celebrate us.”

Bethune-Cookman Graduates stand and turn their backs during a commencement exercise speech by Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University.

Boos resurged when DeVos said she would visit Bethune’s grave and “pay her respects.”

Bethune is buried on campus. Her home is also located on campus, which has been designated a national landmark.

Critics of DeVos pointed to missteps from the outset of her tenure—e.g., her office’s misspelling the name of W.E.B. DuBois in an attempted tribute, to a statement she issued calling segregation-era historically black colleges and universities “pioneers of school choice.” The mistakes, along with President Trump’s seemingly wavering support for HBCUs and a strained relationship with African-Americans, made Ms. DeVos an especially unlikely choice.

Dominik Whitehead, a 2010 graduate of Bethune-Cookman, who generated the first petition calling for Ms. DeVos to be replaced as this year’s graduation speaker said,

“Even though she apologized, she has shown how tone deaf she is, and how disconnected she is from our community,”

Activists dropped off boxes filled with petitions, reportedly having 50,000 signatures, to the school’s administration on Tuesday night in a last-ditch effort to keep Ms. DeVos from speaking.

In a letter to the community defending the choice of Ms. DeVos, Mr. Jackson wrote, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.”

Other prominent black leaders also defended the university’s decision to invite Ms. DeVos. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, wrote on Twitter shortly after Ms. DeVos was named speaker, “I believe we should hear Secretary DeVos at @bethunecookman, just as we want her and President Trump to hear the voices of #HBCUs.”

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Business

Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Fired by Morgan Stanley for Alleged Misconduct

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Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired by the financial services firm Morgan Stanley following allegations of misconduct, NBC confirmed on Thursday.

Morgan Stanley declined to say specifically what prompted the firing. The allegations were presented after a woman who was not employed at the firm accused Mr. Ford of acting inappropriately in a professional setting.

Mr. Ford’s termination reported by HuffPost as an exclusive has been challenged by the former Congressman as “false claims.”

Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired from his position as a managing director at the financial services firm Morgan Stanley for what the company described as behavior “inconsistent with our values.”CreditMike Groll/Associated Press

In a statement provided by his lawyer, Mr. Ford denied the sexual harassment allegations, stating in a tweet on Thursday that he will be bringing legal action against the reporter, for making false claims against him, as well as Morgan Stanley for wrongful termination.

“This simply did not happen,” Mr. Ford wrote. “I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.” He added that socializing with members of the press was part of his job, and said that “false claims like this undermine the real silence breakers.”

Mr. Ford served five terms in Congress as a Democrat representing a Tennessee district after first being elected in 1996—serving as Congressman from 1997 to 207.

He joined Morgan Stanley as a managing director and senior client-relationship manager in 2011 as a vice chairman and senior policy adviser at Bank of America.

Amid the heightened scrutiny of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toppling key figures in the entertainment and political arena, Mr. Ford is the latest high profiled man to lose his job in recent days for similar allegations.

Time magazine on Wednesday named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. They shared personal stories about harassment and assault and sparked the #MeToo movement.

According to Time, the #MeToo became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.

In a tweet acknowledging his thoughts on the “Silence Breaker” quite pointed in his statement, Mr. Ford said the following in regards to news of his firing on Thursday, “This simply did not happen.  I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.”

In another tweet, Mr. Ford spoke about his professional demeanor and his tremendous respect for the brave women speaking out “in this important national dialogue.”  Mr. Ford was pointed in stating that false claims alleged against him “undermine the real “Silence Breakers.”

Mr. Ford appeared as a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” MSNBC – which is owned by NBC 4 New York’s parent company.

“We are looking into the report about Harold Ford Jr.,” a spokeswoman for MSNBC said. “During that time he won’t be a guest on MSNBC.”

LeNora Millen            12-7-17

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Business

TV One Cancels Roland Martin’s Morning Show ‘News One Now’

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TV One is canceling Roland Martin’s morning show “News One Now,” Roland made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday.

“Fam, the sad news is true. The staff of @tvonetv #NewsnewOneNow was informed this afternoon that after four years of doing groundbreaking and award-winning work, the show will cease production at the end of the year,” Martin tweeted.

Martin, who thanked audiences for their support, said the last episode will air on Dec. 21.

Roland Martin’s morning show “NewsOne Now” was cancelled due to budget cuts according to various reports from reliable sources.

“They called a meeting on Wednesday and told the staff they were canceling the show. They’re having significant financial problems and they have to scale back,” a source said. “After four years of award-winning programming and distinguished service to our viewers as the only black daily newscast on television, the network has made the difficult decision to suspend the production of NewsOne Now as a daily morning news show. The last live show is scheduled [Dec. 21],” TV One’s interim GM, Michelle Rice wrote in a memo.

Host of “News One Now” Roland Martin speaks on stage during ColorofChange.org 10 Year Anniversary Gala. (Rob Kim/Getty Images for ColorOfChange)

The news of “NewsOne Now” cancellation shocked Martin and staffers according to sources. The network had recently expanded the morning show to two hours in September.

The memo added: “While we will continue our long-standing partnership with Roland Martin to ensure his important voice can be heard across all Urban One platforms examining issues of importance to the black community, we regret this decision adversely affects several of our valued colleagues whose positions will be eliminated with the suspension of the show.”

The network issued a statement on Twitter that read, “We are committed to providing quality news to our viewers and to our long-standing relationship with @rolandsmartin #NewsOneNow who will continue to have a voice on #TVOne.”

LeNora Millen         12-07-17

 

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Editor Picks

President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

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Why declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is so controversial?

The final status of Jerusalem has always been one of the most difficult and sensitive questions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the United States declares Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it would be seen as prejudging that question, deciding an issue that was supposed to be left to negotiations and breaking with the international consensus on the holy city.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital also moves the United States one major step closer to relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would be seen as cementing Israeli sovereignty over the city.

More from CNN…

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