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“Thanksgiving Grandma”

"Thanksgiving grandma" Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton are celebrating their sixth Thanksgiving together after the mistaken text she sent him about the holiday back in 2016. (Mandatory Credit: KTVK / KPHO)
“Thanksgiving grandma” Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton are celebrating their sixth Thanksgiving together after the mistaken text she sent him about the holiday back in 2016. (Mandatory Credit: KTVK / KPHO)

By Briana Whitney

MESA, Arizona (KTVK, KPHO) — It’s the Thanksgiving tradition that just doesn’t get old – not only to Arizonans but all around the world.

“Thanksgiving grandma” Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton are celebrating their sixth Thanksgiving together after she mistakenly texted him about the holiday back in 2016.

It’s a text that changed their lives, so this year Arizona’s Family wanted to sit down with them for a personal interview reflecting on the past and what’s to come for the two of them.

“Year six. Can you even believe it?” asked reporter, Briana Whitney.

“No, not at all,” they both said.

“I feel like I’m getting older every second!” laughed Jamal.

It’s become a tale and tradition as old as time. “It feels really good inside to know that I bring people joy,” said Jamal.

By now, the world knows the story – Wanda accidentally texted Jamal in 2016 for Thanksgiving dinner, thinking she texted her real grandson. That year they got together for the holiday, thinking it would be a one-time thing. Now they count their blessings that it wasn’t.

“How old were you when this started?” asked Whitney.

“17, I believe. Yeah, 17. And now I’m turning 23 in two months,” Jamal said.

“You’re getting recognized in public. Best Buy, Verizon,” Whitney said to Wanda.

“Yes! It’s so funny. Anywhere there’s young people, they recognize,” she said.

“What do you guys think it is about this story that people come back and they’re actually asking for it? They want to know updates on your lives each year,” said Whitney.

“I’ve been asked that question so many times, and I give the answer that it’s just a feel-good story. There’s a lot, but people want a feel-good story,” said Wanda.

The two have celebrated more than just Thanksgiving together; Christmas, birthdays, and exciting new opportunities have come their way.

“All of this kind of helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life,” said Jamal.

“Give everybody the update: what are you starting to pursue?” asked Whitney. “Right now, I’m starting to pursue an acting career,” Jamal said.

“If you have your own talk show, can I be on it?” Wanda asked him.

“Of course, of course! You’re the main person. Co-hosts!” laughed Jamal.

But Wanda and Jamal have experienced loss together too. Wanda’s husband Lonnie passed away from COVID-19 last year, their first year spending Thanksgiving without him. Wanda credits social media for helping her through it.

“I get so many people giving condolences, and they’re so genuine and so uplifting,” she said.

This story almost never happened had Wanda not responded when Jamal jokingly said he’d come over for a Thanksgiving plate that first year. Yet here we are in 2021. At times, the world can feel divisive and heavy, but this story is simple: it knows no race, age, or background boundaries. This is pure friendship, admiration, and love.

“What would have happened if you never texted him back?” asked Whitney.

“Then I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” Wanda said. “I’ve changed my view so much on the younger generation, and now that I’ve reflected back on all these years, I didn’t change their life; they changed mine.”

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™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2021

Hampton University’s marching band is photographed on November 22, 2021 during Pepsi Stronger Together brings Hampton University’s marching band to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Pepsi Stronger Together)
Hampton University’s marching band is photographed on November 22, 2021 during Pepsi Stronger Together brings Hampton University’s marching band to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Pepsi Stronger Together)

By Forrest Brown, CNN

(CNN) — Last year, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a muted affair. Because of the pandemic, it was a TV-only event. No animated crowds lining Manhattan’s avenues. No long parade route.

What a difference Covid-19 vaccines and 12 months make.

The 2021 spectacle returned to the more familiar parade of yore on Thursday. Travelers and residents have 2.5 miles of public viewing as balloons, floats and bands make their way from the Upper West Side to Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square.

Longtime New York City resident Lisa Fischer is simply delighted about the 95th annual parade, which starts at 9 a.m. ET Thursday.

“Obviously, I had to watch it on TV” last year, she told CNN Travel. “It was still fun and brought back great memories.” But Fischer said it wasn’t the same experience without the energy of the street and the usual traditions.

Fischer has a lot of in-person, treasured experiences with the parade.

When her two children were younger, Fischer used to take them to watch the giant balloons being inflated. Then they’d catch the parade on TV the next day in their pajamas at home.

Around 2004, they had a particularly memorable time watching up close.

“We got to be in the stands right in front of Macy’s,” Fischer said. “I was fortunate enough to get tickets and right in front where they televised it. That was really fun.”

Here’s what folks on the ground and watching on TV can expect:

2021 Macy’s Parade route

The 2020 parade was held in a small area around the Macy’s flagship store — just enough room to stage it for broadcast.

This year is taking a more traditional route, starting at West 77th Street and Central Park West, but with no or limited public viewing there, according to Macy’s official parade website.

Early birds start arriving around 6 a.m. Thursday on Central Park West from West 75th to West 61st streets. This stretch is considered to have great views. The parade will then make a turn at Columbus Circle — again no public viewing at the circle.

After a relatively short distance down Central Park South, the parade will head south on 6th Avenue for the long trip toward Midtown Manhattan. Macy’s touts the views from West 59th to West 38th streets.

The parade makes its final turn on 34th street and terminates in front of the flagship store (no public viewing here either).

Weather forecast

Year after year, there is always this big question: Will the winds keep the balloons from flying?

There is nothing in the forecast computer models that indicates winds will get anywhere near the threshold, according to CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones.

So, “let the balloons fly,” Jones said.

Not only that, but the weather will be crisp and beautiful, Jones said. It may be a little bit cold in the early hours, the upper 30s to lower 40s. But by the time Santa hits Herald Square, it will be mostly sunny with a temperature of about 50 degrees, if not a bit warmer, he said.

You can get updates at CNN Weather.

How to watch from home

Can’t be there in person?

NBC is the official broadcaster for the parade, and coverage starts at 9 a.m. in all US time zones. The parade hosts are Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker of the “Today” show.

The Spanish language simulcast on Telemundo will be hosted by Ana Jurka and Carlos Adyan. NBC is also offering streaming on its new Peacock Premium platform.

CBS will also cover the parade from 9 a.m. to noon. And it will live stream on its Paramount Plus Premium platform.

You might also catch it if you have live TV streaming services such as FuboTV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV.

Marching bands

It’s hard to beat that head-to-toe tingle that a good marching band gives you. And Macy’s draws some of the best from around the United States. A few bands from the 2021 musical cavalcade:

— The Hampton University Marching Force: This high-energy Virginia band played at the 2020 New Year’s Day Parade and Celebration in Rome and its drumline was in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade.

— The NYPD Marching Band: Made of musically inclined police officers, it’s a crowd favorite.

— The Ann Richards Marching Stars: Deep from the heart of Texas, the band is the only all-female competitive marching band in the country, according to Macy’s.

— The Centerville High School Jazz Band: Hailing from Ohio, the band is known for its traditional and contemporary treatments of big band jazz. They are set to perform “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Performers

The parade will also present singers, musicians and entertainers from a wide variety of genres. Some of the many stars scheduled to appear include:

— The South Korean K-pop quartet Aespa
— Country music singer Chris Lane
— “Glee” star and Broadway actor Darren Criss
— Classic rock band Foreigner
— New Orleans singer, composer and jazz pianist Jon Batiste
— Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth of “Wicked” fame
— Groundbreaking country singer Mickey Guyton
— St. Louis rapper Nelly

Balloons

Those huge balloons giving giant-sized visual thrills will be back. A small sampling of what you’ll see:

— Ada Twist, scientist: From the Netflix series, she makes her balloon debut this year at about the height of a four-story building.
— Tiptoe the Reindeer, also making its balloon debut
— Astronaut Snoopy, the ninth balloon iteration of the Peanuts character
— The Pillsbury Doughboy at 46 feet tall
— Smokey Bear, star of the longest running PSA in US history, according to Macy’s

You’ll also see fun “balloonicles” — part balloon, part vehicle and part float.

Another beloved tradition — the public viewing of the balloons being prepared — returned this year. It was held Wednesday on the Upper West Side.

Floats

Closer to the ground but just as festive are the creative, multilevel parade floats. Some fun ones to watch for this year include:

— Celebration Gator from the Louisiana Office of Tourism
— 1-2-3 Sesame Street Float
— Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree, featuring the voices of more than 100 Macy’s workers
— And of course, Santa’s Sleigh

Safety and security

While full vaccinations were required to attend the balloon inflation event Wednesday afternoon, there is no Covid-19 vaccination requirement for the public to watch the parade from the sidewalks on Thursday morning. People are encouraged to wear masks and dress accordingly for late November weather in New York City.

Spectators are asked to avoid bringing large bags, umbrellas, backpacks and strollers. The public entering viewing streets might undergo a security search.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that there were no “specific and credible threats” against the city’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Nevertheless, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said his officers would be on high alert.

“We never rest on our laurels and we’re going to have thousands of officers out there to make sure that you don’t have to think about security,” he said.

De Blasio was asked by reporters on Monday whether the Wisconsin Christmas parade incident that left six people dead after an SUV plowed into a crowd would affect New York City’s security plan.

“It’s tragic and horrible what happened in Wisconsin but, I will tell you, the NYPD for years and years has planned for very careful security around the parade,” the mayor said.

Sweet anticipation

Lisa Fischer said she plans to get up really early Thursday, grab a coffee, corral a couple of friends and see whether she can find a spot on the sidewalk to watch.

Fischer has an enviable back-up plan if the ground level action isn’t to her liking.

Her apartment at 60th Street and Amsterdam Avenue near Lincoln Center gives her a bird’s-eye view of Columbus Circle, where the parade will make a turn.

She has an amazing personal simulcast situation, too. Her TV is set up so she can watch the broadcast and watch the parade go by through her apartment window at the same time.

“I’m excited to watch it in person this year. It’s not Thanksgiving without the parade. It’s the kickoff of the holiday season,” she said.

“New York City feels a little lighter for the first time in 18 months. … Lots of Christmas decorations are up now. There are seemingly more tourists here. The atmosphere doesn’t feel as heavy. I feel more optimistic.”

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™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

A Black Happy Thanksgiving 2021

Poverty and unemployment within our families and communities are now on a steady decrease after years of increasing economic disparities even before the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Black America. We express our condolences to those families who have suffered deaths from that deadly pandemic that continues to disproportionately hit our communities.
Poverty and unemployment within our families and communities are now on a steady decrease after years of increasing economic disparities even before the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Black America. We express our condolences to those families who have suffered deaths from that deadly pandemic that continues to disproportionately hit our communities.

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO

African Americans and other communities of color across the United States of America will spend the traditional Thanksgiving holidays this year with multiple perspectives ranging from gratefulness of having life itself to increasing feelings of speculation about our future destinies and progress in America. We have won some victories. We have suffered some defeats.

Yet, we are a people of African descent who are also profoundly aware that our long struggle for freedom, justice and equality continues today in America, in Africa and throughout the world. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) representing the Black Press of America reaffirms our mission to “To plead our own cause” in speaking and publishing truth to power.

At the same time, we acknowledge a sacred respect and resolute solidarity with our Native American sisters and brothers who inhabited what now is known as America long before Christopher Columbus discovered that he was lost. The subsequent genocide and oppression of native peoples throughout this hemisphere that Columbus and others initiated with impunity and a callous disregard for human life also contributed to the eventual launching of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Yes, there are significant matters, circumstances, and advances that we all should note with a consciousness of thanksgiving and gratefulness. Over the past twelve months we have a new Biden-Harris Administration that is the most racially diverse and inclusive federal administration in American history. The Biden Infrastructure Bill is now law and will help stimulate economic recovery for African American owned businesses.

The House of Representatives has now passed Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation. We must now put serious pressure on the U.S. Senate to also pass this unprecedented initiative that will further help to eliminate poverty, housing discrimination, health care disparities, and environmental injustice.

Even though we have not been able to end the reality of systemic racism in the very fabric of society, we have in fact made progress. This is no time for us to get distracted, disillusioned, and chronically disappointed about the present and the future.

Poverty and unemployment within our families and communities are now on a steady decrease after years of increasing economic disparities even before the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Black America. We express our condolences to those families who have suffered deaths from that deadly pandemic that continues to disproportionately hit our communities.

We are thankful to those healthcare professionals, physicians, medical researchers and other first responders who have helped all Americans to survive and to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It is, therefore, appropriate that part of our Black Happy Thanksgiving wishes go out to the medical research genius of our sister, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the leading viral immunologist, who helped to develop the vaccine process that led to the preventive COVID-19 vaccines that has enabled millions of Americans and others to avoid infection from COVID-19. Dr. Corbett stated, “Vaccines are the great equalizer when it comes to addressing health disparities, especially around infectious diseases.”

We are thankful for the effectiveness of the Black Voters Matter movement and all of the civil rights and voting rights national, regional, and local organizations that are challenging the voter suppression statues, laws and regulations that are being put into place in Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and in other states. We are thankful for the leadership of Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and each member of the CBC.

We are thankful to Attorney Benjamin Crump and a growing host of other civil rights lawyers and leaders who refuse to be silent about the continuing racially motivated police brutality and misconduct across America that inflicts fatal consequences for Black Americans throughout the nation.

We are thankful that the Black Press is expanding to all multimedia platforms and channels. We have to remain proactive to ensure that the formulation and distribution of the narrative of Black America is authentic, accurate, truthful, and trusted.

Thus, we wish all a Black Happy Thanksgiving.

President Biden Touts Holiday Surprise: Jobless Claims Hit Record Low

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

President Joe Biden headed into the holiday weekend with two pieces of economic good news he claimed underscores that recovery has continued at a historic pace.

The new jobless claims report released on Wednesday, November 24, indicates that the President has every reason for optimism – the economy is starting to boom.

The report revealed just 199,000 workers filed new jobless claims, the lowest mark in nearly 53 years.

“Last year, there were 21 million unemployment insurance claims before the Thanksgiving holiday. Today, there were 2.4 million,” President Biden exclaimed.

“This is a historic jobs recovery – 5.6 million jobs created since I took office and an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent – two full years earlier than experts predicted was possible,” the President remarked.

“More Americans are getting back to work, and more Americans have money in their pockets, thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the vaccination campaign,” he said.

CNBC reported that the decline appeared at least in part to be due to seasonal adjustments. Unadjusted claims totaled 258,622, an increase of 7.6 percent from the previous week.

Further, according to published reports, continued jobless claims, which count workers who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at around 2 million in the week ended November 13, down 60,000 from the prior week.

Overall, 2.4 million Americans received government benefits under various programs in the week ended November 6, down from 3.2 million at the end of October.

“Layoffs are hitting new lows amid ongoing labor shortages as employers look to hold onto hard-to-find workers,” Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao wrote in a tweet.

President Biden noted that the U.S. counts as the only major economy that has exceeded its pre-pandemic level of gross domestic product.

He promised to continue working to improve the economy further and provide more job opportunities for all Americans.

“We have more work to do before our economy is back to normal, including addressing prices increases that hurt Americans’ pocketbooks and undermine gains in wages and disposable income,” President Biden stated.

“That’s why yesterday I announced steps my Administration is taking to bring down the cost of gas for American families, and my Administration remains laser-focused on implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will ease supply chain bottlenecks across the economy.”

He continued:

“And it’s why it’s so critical that the Senate pass the Build Back Better Act, which, according to leading economists, will cut costs for American families without adding to price pressures.”

“Build Back Better will cut the cost of prescription drugs, health care, childcare, and housing for tens of millions of middle-class families and seniors – while extending critical middle class tax relief that is helping working families make ends meet. Today’s data reinforce the historic economic progress we are making and the importance of building on that progress in the weeks ahead.”

Rising Inflation Could Lead To Most Expensive Thanksgiving In History

Inflation may be cooking up the most expensive Thanksgiving in history for American families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the average dinner cost is up 5%, while the American Farm Bureau Federation claims that the increase may be as high as 14%. The USDA says many farmers aren’t currently making more money for their crops, and almost all are dealing with rising costs. CNN’s Gabe Cohen reports.

Robberies Continue To Plague Retail Stores Across The Country

More “smash & grab” robberies have occurred around the U.S. at a wide range of retail stores and authorities are now trying to increase security to prevent more from happening.

Father And Son Guilty Of Murder In Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing

Travis McMichael listens to testimony in the Ahmaud Arbery killing trial. (Mandatory Credit: Pool/AP)
Travis McMichael listens to testimony in the Ahmaud Arbery killing trial. (Mandatory Credit: Pool/AP)

By Devon M. Sayers, Alta Spells and Travis Caldwell, CNN

(CNN) — [Breaking news update, published at 1:44 p.m. ET]

A jury found Travis and Gregory McMichael guilty of murder Wednesday on charges they chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, as he jogged last year through their neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia.

[Breaking news update, published at 1:39 p.m. ET]

Jurors found Travis McMichael guilty of murder Wednesday for chasing and fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, as he jogged last year through a neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia.

[Breaking news update, published at 1:28 p.m. ET]

The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of 3 men charged in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing.

[Previous story, published at 12:55 p.m. ET]

Jurors in the trial of three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery began their second day of deliberations Wednesday morning.

Roughly 90 minutes into Wednesday’s proceedings, the jury requested to review two video clips, one of them enhanced, from the scene of the February 23, 2020, fatal shooting, as well as the audio of Gregory McMichael’s 911 call that day. They watched each video snippet three times and listened to the 911 audio once before returning to the jury room.

The jury took a short lunch break before resuming deliberations just before 1 p.m. ET.

Deliberations come after eight days of testimony, involving 23 witnesses. The jury reviewed the case for more than six hours Tuesday after the prosecution presented a rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments.

Three men — Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. — are standing trial on charges related to the shooting of Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020.

Each of the defendants face nine separate charges, including malice and felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. If the jury finds Bryan not guilty of a second aggravated assault charge, they can consider three lesser misdemeanor charges for simple assault, reckless conduct, or reckless driving.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The McMichaels claim they were conducting a citizen’s arrest after suspecting Arbery of burglary of a nearby home under construction, and that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense by shooting Arbery. Bryan maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

If jury deliberations continue past Wednesday, court will adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday and deliberations may resume Friday and Saturday if needed.

Authorities are preparing for all possible outcomes following a verdict in terms of public reaction, which has been keyed in on a trial that consistently revolved around issues of self-defense and race.

“We plan for the worst, but we hope for the best. But we’re trying to come up with contingencies for many different scenarios that could unfold as a result of the verdict,” said Glynn County Police Department Captain Jeremiah Bergquist, who also heads the local task force unit overseeing public safety during the trial.

Prosecution gave rebuttal Tuesday

Attorneys for each of the three defendants offered different arguments Monday for why their clients were not guilty.

Alongside Travis McMichael’s central argument of self-defense, Gregory McMichael’s attorney Laura Hogue repeatedly claimed that Arbery was a habitual trespasser in the area, and said jurors should consider that Gregory McMichael had proper reasonable suspicion of Arbery to act.

Kevin Gough, an attorney for Bryan, said Bryan was more of a witness than anything else and that his video showing the shooting enabled the case to move forward.

Tuesday brought a rebuttal from lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who emphasized to the jury that the men acted on suspicions alone and had no evidence Arbery had committed a crime. Travis McMichael also had inconsistencies from testimony in court when compared to statements made to police right after the shooting, she added.

Dunikoski said all three men were culpable of the charges faced because they could have de-escalated the situation by calling police or not chasing Arbery. Instead, she argued, the men committed aggravated assault with their trucks when chasing and trying to falsely imprison Arbery, leading to the moment Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.

“If you take that out, would he be alive?” she asked the jury of Arbery. “It’s real simple. The answer is you can’t take out any of these crimes. If you take out any one of these crimes that they committed and he’s still alive. All of the underlying felonies played a substantial and necessary part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said Tuesday after court proceedings that Dunikoski “did a fantastic job” in her final rebuttal.

“She presented the evidence again very well. I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict, and I want to leave with this: God has brought us this far, and he’s not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud,” she told reporters.

Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery’s father, said what he saw in the courtroom was “devastating,” but also expressed confidence in getting a guilty verdict.

After the jury started to deliberate, Travis McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield said, “I feel very confident in the case that we have put forward. I feel very confident in the evidence of Travis’ innocence,” adding “we will accept the verdict whatever it is.”

Makeup of jury was source of contention

Nine White women, two White men and one Black man are serving on the trial jury, with two White women and one White man serving as jury alternates, according to a CNN analysis of juror data.

Only having one Black juror has been a key complaint from prosecutors and Arbery’s family, as Glynn County’s population is about 69% White and 26% Black, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. Arbery was Black and the defendants are White.

The 12-member trial jury and three alternates were selected after a protracted jury selection process that lasted two and a half weeks and included summoning 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community. Of those summoned, less than half showed up.

The makeup of the jury was challenged by the state at the conclusion of the jury selection process. Dunikoski claimed defense attorneys disproportionately struck qualified Black jurors and based some of their strikes on race.

Judge Timothy Walmsley said, “This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” but ruled that the case could go forward with the selected jurors because the defense was able to provide valid reasons, beyond race, for why the other Black jurors were dismissed.

Defense attorneys also took issue with there being fewer older White men without college degrees in the juror pool, saying the demographic was underrepresented.

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™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Local Organization Receives Funds From The Bezos Day One Fund To Combat Homelessness

The Centralized Diversion Fund recently announced that they received a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to combat homelessness in King County. (Credit: iStockphoto)
The Centralized Diversion Fund recently announced that they received a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to combat homelessness in King County. (Credit: iStockphoto)

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

Due to the economic downturn and the COVID pandemic homelessness has become a symptom of the adversities society has faced over the last several years.

Community organizations such as Africatown International and Building Changes have taken it upon themselves to do what they can to help and aid those demographics adversely affected by homelessness in our community.

“Homelessness doesn’t always mean someone is living under a bridge,” says Malakhi Kaine, Executive Director of Africatown International. “Sometimes families may find themselves in many different scenarios like rent arears, or evictions that can hold up their ability to find or secure a new residence and this fund allows us to help these families by subsidizing monies to help with things like first and last months payment as well as deposits.”

Africatown International (AI) is a community-based, black led organization formed in 2016. AI’s mission is to alleviate poverty through education, employment and by addressing basic human needs. AI focuses on providing culturally based solutions to poverty. Its primary objective is to help households address root causes and create a roadmap to prosperity.

In partnership with Building Changes, a local non-profit that pushes for equitable, holistic responses in and across the housing, education, and health systems so that all children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness get the support they need, AI has created the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) to provide cost-effective and common-sense solution to homelessness in King County.

CDF recently announced that they have been selected to receive a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund. Launched in 2018 by Amazon founder and executive chair Jeff Bezos, the Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The CDF helps families get housed quickly by providing them with the funds needed to cover move-in costs, application fees, past due eviction debt and other expenses so that they can secure a safe and stable place to live.

“One of the things is we are excited to have this grant come in to really bridge and sustain the Centralized Diversion Fund until we can find long term funding,” says Daniel Zavala, Executive Director of Building Changes. “This allows the person or family who may be experiencing homelessness and then have the providers themselves be able to access a central fund and that alleviates the difficulty in the navigation and access to homeless services and support.”

According to the CDF, this one-time grant from the Day 1 Families Fund will allow CDF partners to help an additional 500 families exit homelessness. The grant will also support infrastructure needs and capacity building, including training practitioners and providers, as sustainable public funding paths are established for the CDF. The CDF is meant to be a public-private partnership.

“This is an investment in a proven, community-based solution to our region’s homeless crisis,” said Yalonda Sinde, Finance and Development Director at Africatown International, a local black-led, grassroots organization that administers the CDF. “Support for the Centralized Diversion Fund will ensure people move quickly from homelessness into housing.”

The Bezos Day One Fund made a $2 billion commitment to focus on making meaningful and lasting impacts in two areas: funding existing non-profits that help families experiencing homelessness, and creating a network of new, non-profit tier-one preschools in low-income communities. The Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The CDF was selected as Day 1 Families Fund grant recipients by an independent advisory board comprised of homelessness experts with experience in policy, advocacy, racial equity, child welfare and housing and service delivery, as well as firsthand experience in homelessness.

“This gift will renew and cement the Centralized Diversion Fund for the coming years,” said Zavala. “It will allow us to focus on long-term sustainability of public funding, while also meeting the current and impending needs of families experiencing homelessness in our community.”

Metro Launches Investigation Into Offensive Image Found On Buses

Pictured above is one of two two 60-foot Metro coaches, which have been fully “wrapped” with Metro transit operator's Black Lives Matter Artwork. Courtesy photo.
LEFT PHOTO: A picture of a Metro bus that had the King County Metro logo with the image of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. replaced with a decal image of Adolf Hitler. RIGHT PHOTO: A picture showing the official King County logo with the image of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. located near the top of the bus.  

By Chris B. Bennett, The Seattle Medium

King County Metro has launched an “internal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) investigation” into the placement of an offensive image on two Metro buses.

In memo sent to all Metro employees, Metro General Manager Terry White stated, “Late last week a decal image of Adolf Hitler was found on the exterior of two Metro buses similar in size and color to the image of Martin Luther King Jr. that is part of the King County Metro logo. The decal covered and defaced the image of MLK on the logo that appears near the top of our buses. This vandalism is clearly offensive, harmful to our employees and our community, and a form of hate speech.”

According to the memo, Metro has launched an internal investigation, and are in the process of inspecting their fleet to make sure no other images are circulating on vehicles in their system.

A photo of the second Metro bus that had the King County logo defaced and replaced with an image of Adolf Hitler. Photo courtesy of King County Metro.

“While it has not been determined where the image came from, we take this incident very seriously and do not tolerate inappropriate conduct, discrimination, harassment, or retaliation,” White stated in the memo. “All of us are responsible for creating a workplace that is free of harmful behavior.”

A number of Metro employees spoke with The Seattle Medium in anonymity regarding this issue. Most of them claim that they are not surprised by the alleged incident and claim that there are a “few bad apples who do subtle things from time to time, but there are others who are more out front with their disrespect and racial intolerance.” In addition, they claim that the placement of the image is in a location that is not easily accessible by someone just randomly or casually placing decals on a bus.

“It’s not like you can just jump up on the top of a bus and deface Dr. King’s image,” said one transit operator to The Seattle Medium. “You either need a ladder or be standing on some sort of platform. This is deliberate, this was calculated, it’s disgusting, it’s a shame and it needs to stop.”

This is not the first time that employees of King County Metro have been accused of defacing the image of Dr. King as part of the King County logo. In 2016, The Seattle Medium reported that transit workers were punching holes through the image of Dr. King on bus transfers in a place where there is no reason whatsoever to punch such a hole.

A 2016 memo sent out to employees by former Metro General Manger Rob Gannon stated, “Customers and operators alike have been noticing operators punching out the MLK logo on the transfers. This practice is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately.”

In addition, there were also reports at the time of county employees that refused to wear uniforms that had the county logo with the image of Dr. King. Instead, they chose to wear uniforms that had the old gold crown logo – even though, at the time, 8 years had passed since the implementation of the new King logo. It was also alleged that some employees would cover the King logo with tape or a patch while in uniform.

“Yeah, they refuse to wear it because they don’t want to wear the image of a Black man across their chest,” said one county employee, in a 2016 interview with The Seattle Medium when asked about the alleged actions of some of his fellow employees.

Since 2016, Metro has taken many steps eradicate inappropriate conduct, discrimination, harassment and retaliation – including developing programs such as leading with racial justice, establishing a workforce equity and social justice work plan.  In addition, they have added resources such as staffing EEO section, instituted anti-harassment, bias training, and established employee resource groups that focus on equity and inclusion.

This is a developing story and The Seattle Medium will update it as more information becomes available.

Related Stories:

Ensuring Metro Works, In A Spirit Of Inclusion And Diversity – The Seattle

MediumTransit Workers Disrespect Dr. King – The Seattle Medium

Constantine Appoints Patti Cole-Tindall As Interim King County Sheriff

Patti Cole-Tindall
Patti Cole-Tindall

On Tuesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the appointment of Patti Cole-Tindall to serve as Interim King County Sheriff while the County conducts a nationwide recruitment process for a new Sheriff to be appointed in mid-2022. Cole-Tindall will be the first person of color to serve as Sheriff in King County’s history. In addition, Constantine announced a new retention and recruitment bonus program for Sheriff’s officers.

Following the passage of a Charter Amendment in November 2020, the King County Sheriff’s Office is transitioning to an appointed, rather than elected, Sheriff. The Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) has developed recommendations for the characteristics of the next Sheriff, focusing on a strong background in law enforcement, community leadership, and community partnerships; a reputation for integrity, honesty, and transparency; the ability to inspire and motivate change; and a commitment to equity, racial and social justice, and LGBTQ+ issues.

“Patti’s background and experience in the Sheriff’s Office and across County government – working with labor, serving her community, and demonstrating integrity and transparency – make her uniquely qualified to step into this interim role. She embodies the key qualities we’re looking for as we begin to rethink community safety, hire the next generation of officers and search for a newly appointed Sheriff,” said Constantine. “I am confident she will ensure a smooth transition and provide strong leadership for Sheriff’s Office employees and the public.”

Cole-Tindall has a background in law enforcement, labor relations, human resources as well as service to the community. She joined the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) in October 2015, serving as the Chief of Technical Services Division for almost five years before being appointed to Undersheriff, where she is responsible for day-to-day operations with the team of three Division Chiefs. She currently oversees the development and implementation of the KCSO strategic plan and the examination and strengthening of the KCSO complaint and use of force review processes.

Prior to that, Cole-Tindall served as the County’s Director of Labor Relations, advising Constantine and the County Council on strategic planning, labor policy, and employment law. She concurrently served as the interim director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, working with staff, the Sheriff’s Office, and the public to improve services and promote awareness of the role of civilian oversight in King County.

“I am honored to serve as the Interim Sheriff, and will be working closely with my management teams to support and lead the people of the KCSO until the new Sheriff is appointed,” said Cole-Tindall. “During this transition, my mission is clear: support our workforce, ensure a smooth transition, and listen to the communities we serve as we reimagine law enforcement in King County.”

Additionally, today’s appointment included the announcement of a proposal to be transmitted to the King County Council to, subject to ratification by the respective unions, appropriate funds for recruitment and retention bonuses for existing and new Sheriff Officers:

• A one-time $4,000 retention bonus to all commissioned Sheriff’s Office employees employed on Jan. 1, 2022
• A hiring bonus of $15,000 for lateral hires of Sheriff’s Deputies
• A hiring bonus of $7,500 for new Sheriff’s Deputies
• A $5,000 referral bonus for current Sheriff’s Office employees who refer successful candidates who are hired as Sheriff’s Deputies.

Last week, Executive Constantine announced the start of a nationwide search for King County’s next Sheriff. The recruitment process has worked to incorporate community identified priorities and qualifications for the next appointed Sheriff, using recommendations from PSAC and will include opportunities for input from community representatives, employees, and labor representatives. Cole-Tindall’s first day as Interim Sheriff will by January 1, and she will serve until the conclusion of recruitment in the summer of 2022 at which time a new Sheriff will be appointed.

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