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Vote 2018 Town Hall

DALLAS POST TRIBUNE — DENTON, TX – The St. James A.M.E. Church partners with the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Board to present the Vote 2018 Town Hall. It will be held Thursday, September 20, 2018, from 7-9 p.m., at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, located at 1300 Wilson in Denton. This forum wants to ensure that eligible voters are informed about the changes in the Texas voting laws, and that they are able to cast their votes in the November 6 Election.

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Education forum gears up to explain changes in the Texas laws to help citizens exercise their rights to vote

 

DENTON, TX – (August 15, 2018) The St. James A.M.E. Church partners with the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Board to present the Vote 2018 Town Hall. It will be held Thursday, September 20, 2018, from 7-9 p.m., at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, located at 1300 Wilson in Denton. This forum wants to ensure that eligible voters are informed about the changes in the Texas voting laws, and that they are able to cast their votes in the November 6 Election.

The forum plans to answer questions about the voter ID laws, documents required for voting, election protection, voter suppression and redistricting. Individuals can register to vote and make address and name changes in our onsite Voter Registration Drive.

The guest speakers are Texas State Senator Royce West of Dallas and National Voting Rights Coordinator Justin Kwasa of the Washington, DC-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Mr. Kwasa will speak about the obstacles to voting rights in Texas while Senator Royce offers a message to prepare citizens for the midterm elections.

Emily Meisner of Denton Vote Group will explain the voting requirements. Participants can ask questions to an expert panel, which includes: Johnnie Berkley, Texas Department of Public Safety; Bob Lydia, Texas NAACP; Willie Hudspeth, Denton County Branch NAACP; Lillian Adams, LULAC; Christina Adkins, Texas Secretary of State; Sharon Watkins Jones, ACLU of Texas; Courtney Cross, League of Women Voters of Denton; and Paula Paschal, Denton County Elections.

Who should attend? All unregistered voters; those who need photo IDs; 18-24 year-olds; college students; ex-offenders; senior citizens; uninformed voters; and anyone interested in the new voting laws.

According to a University of Houston (April 10, 2017) study, there is “widespread confusion about the state’s identification rules” ahead of the elections. And such misunderstandings may keep some eligible voters from showing up to the polls. Prior to the 2016 elections, “the requirements were replaced after a federal appeals court ruled that Texas’ strict 2011 ID law discriminated against minority voters.” Since then, there have been some other rulings related to the law. In June, the Supreme Court decision ruled that states could purge voters for failure to vote in two consecutive federal elections, which will greatly disenfranchise minorities, veterans, and low-income and disabled people. Therefore, many Texans still do not have a good understanding of the rules and other changes that might affect their ability to cast a ballot in the upcoming elections. In view of the recent purge law, every voter should check with their local election offices to ensure they are registered vote.

“Our democracy thrives when people are prepared and have the right information to exercise fully their civic duty,” said Pastor Mason Rice, Jr. of St. James A.M.E. Church. “We are committed to moral and social issues including voting rights, and these can be best accomplished through education. We need to vote and to stay informed about leaders who will make laws and policy that affect our faith, our families and our freedom.” He added, “This voters’ education forum is free to the public, and everyone is invited to attend.”

The sponsors of this town hall include: NAACP, League of Women Voters of Denton, Denton Vote Group, and University of North Texas Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Zeta Beta Chapter.

St. James A.M.E. Church is celebrating its 143rd year of serving the Denton community. In 1985, it was designated as an historical landmark.

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NNPA Makes Plans for the Future During Informal Gathering in Houston

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Though it was not an official board of directors meeting, the two-day planning session and retreat in Houston included NNPA executive board members: NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards; First Vice Chair Janis Ware; Second Vice Chair Fran Farrer; Treasurer Brenda Andrews; and Secretary Jackie Hampton.

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The informal gathering, which included all who comprise the NNPA executive committee, helped to jumpstart what’s sure to be a banner year in 2020, the 80th anniversary of the storied organization.
The informal gathering, which included all who comprise the NNPA executive committee, helped to jumpstart what’s sure to be a banner year in 2020, the 80th anniversary of the storied organization.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

An informal gathering of National Newspaper Publishers Association board members and publishers has galvanized the 79-year-old organization and has served to renew its commitment as the voice of Black America.

Though it was not an official board of directors meeting, the two-day planning session and retreat in Houston included NNPA executive board members: NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards; First Vice Chair Janis Ware; Second Vice Chair Fran Farrer; Treasurer Brenda Andrews; and Secretary Jackie Hampton.

NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., also attended the gathering and Sonya Ware of Blue Beagle Consulting served as the facilitator.

“We have a lot of talented publishers in this organization who are very knowledgeable,” said Richards, who in June won election as chair by an overwhelming vote of the publishers.

“The tranquil location provided a peaceful environment. It was an opportunity that allowed my thoughts and energy to focus on the future of NNPA, especially at a time when the newspaper industry is evolving and transforming,” said Ware, the publisher of the Atlanta Voice newspaper.

“Change is inevitable, and the NNPA must adapt to the change to propel ourselves into the future. The African American newspapers have captured the history of our communities. And, the people we serve in a positive light will reflect our contributions to the world and will speak to the powerful legacy of our people,” said Ware, adding, “I am excited about the future of our newspapers and the future of the National Newspaper Association. The new leadership has adopted a position of inclusiveness and expansion of our members, providing an opportunity for growth,” she continued.

Farrer, the publisher, and editor of The County News in Statesville, N.C., called the informal gathering “awesome,” adding that she is excited to be with the new team, which has a clear vision for the future.

“The new team will increase visibility and the comfortability of all our member publishers,” Farrar said. “We made great plans, and we did teamwork. There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team,’ and that was very obvious with this new team,” she said.

Farrar senses a “new Black Press of America.”

“I think everyone at NNPA will be proud to call themselves members and I see new publishers who will want to join. I am so proud to be a member of this board,” she said.

Andrews, the publisher of the New Journal & Guide in Norfolk, Va., said she believes the new administration has begun a bonding process that’s necessary in creating a strong team for the NNPA membership.

“Rather than a retreat, I would call our two-day gathering an advance,” Andrews said.

“By that I mean the energy and synergy in the room suggested that those present were on board to work together in moving the organization forward and excited about the direction given by Board Chair Karen Carter Richards,” she said.

“I am so happy to share that the Board of Director’s informal retreat exceeded my hopes and expectations,” said Hampton, the publisher of the Mississippi Link in Jackson.

“I am leaving Houston energized, ignited and ready to do my part in fulfilling the mission of the association and the needs of member publishers throughout the nation,” Hampton said.

“Regardless of our various backgrounds, size of the market, or size of publication, we are more alike than we are different because our needs are practically the same. This board, with the assistance of an excellent facilitator, connected in a way that convinced me we can reach new and greater heights of success,” Hampton said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the right leadership is in place and we will work side by side as we allow our CEO, Dr. Ben Chavis and his staff carry out the needs of the officers and members of NNPA,” she said.

For Richards, who publishes the Houston Forward Times, the gathering is just a foregleam of good things to come for the NNPA.

She said the informal gathering, which included all who comprise the NNPA executive committee, helped to jumpstart what’s sure to be a banner year in 2020, the 80th anniversary of the storied organization.

“It was insightful, reaffirming, marvelous, and encouraging. Everyone was energized and grateful,” Richards said.

“There’s going to be a rebranding of the NNPA. After so much that we’ve been through to this point, we want us to all be of one accord and come together and identify, understand, and come up with solutions to address the needs of the member publishers,” Richards said.

“The mission is to elevate the NNPA. This is what has to be done because we are the original Black Press of America,” she said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re going to have fun doing it.”

The NNPA “is now especially blessed with an outstanding, competent, and well-experienced executive board leadership team led by NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards,” said Chavis.

“The two-day informal board retreat in Houston was a celebration of our new leadership and revived spirit to sustain the present and future transformative legacy of the publishing excellence of the Black Press of America via print, digital, and social media,” Chavis said.

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.
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ESPN Academy founder passes

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Doris Thomas Hill, the founder and chief administrator of the South Memphis-based ESPN Academy, was determined to make the academy’s 19th anniversary celebration the best ever. Last Friday (Aug. 2) just after 5 p.m., Mrs. Hill passed away at Baptist Memorial Hospital. 

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Doris Thomas Hill
Doris Thomas Hill

By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

Doris Thomas Hill, the founder and chief administrator of the South Memphis-based ESPN Academy, was determined to make the academy’s 19th anniversary celebration the best ever. Last Friday (Aug. 2) just after 5 p.m., Mrs. Hill passed away at Baptist Memorial Hospital. 

She was 67.

 “The banquet will go on as planned, just as we were instructed,” said Evidane Charlise Slaughter, Mrs. Hill’s goddaughter and ESPN staffer.

The Education Scholarship Preparation Nurture (ESPN) Academy was organized after Mrs. Hill expressed a concern to her pastor and husband, Dr. Alfred DeWayne Hill. She was troubled that children in the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church community had no place to go after school. 

“Alfred was a big believer in education,” she had once said. “He felt it would be a great idea to provide a safe place for kids to come and receive help with their school work as well as spiritual guidance. And, that’s how we began.”

During the past school year, ESPN provided over 1,100 hours of instruction and tutoring, in its programs: Mother’s Day Out, Off-Site Tutoring, Saturday Academy, and After-School Tutoring.

 Mrs. Hill was born on Sept. 21, 1951 in Memphis to parents Willie and Lucille Gales Thomas; her grandparents,  Albert Gales Sr. and Armenthry Davis Gales,  were Mississippi sharecroppers. She graduated from South Side High School in 1969, and later from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis), where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Personnel Management.

Levi Frazier Jr., fine arts professor at Southwest Community College, has known Mrs. Hill for 40 years.

“I had no idea Doris has passed,” he said. “We were working on the upcoming banquet. Just this morning, I was thinking to myself, ‘Let me get up and get busy. If Doris can keep going with all she has to deal with, surely I can, too.’”

Dr. Hill was killed in New Orleans in 2002  while the couple vacationed. Their son, Alfred DeWayne Hill Jr., was 15 at the time.

“Her son and my son were best friends, and DeWayne was staying with us when his father was killed,” said Regina Haley. “Doris made me promise to do everything possible to make sure DeWayne did not find out  before she could get home to tell him herself. That’s just the kind of mother she was. Her son always came first before every thing.”

Two other close friends, Priscilla Williams and Sherry Thornton, reflected on Mrs. Hill’s impact upon them.

“I am the person you see today because of her mentoring and counseling. She became a surrogate mother when my own mother died,” Williams said.

 “She was my sister, not just a friend,” said Thornton. “Doris was such a wonderful example of grace under difficult circumstances…I will always remember her wit, wisdom and warmth.”

Mrs. Hill retired from Krafts Food as senior manager of Human Resources. Prior to that, she was employed with Welcome Wagon International, retiring after 26 years.

She sponsored many ministry teams to Jamaica, Africa and South America as well as financed teachers and medical missionary teams to Haiti.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages a gifting tribute  “to support the dreams and aspirations of the children of  the ESPN Academy.” (P. O. Box 3324, Memphis, TN  38173.)

Visitation will be Friday, Aug. 9, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, 491 E. McLemore Avenue. The funeral service is  at noon on Saturday (Aug. 10), with viewing from 10 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.  Burial is in Elmwood Cemetery. R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home has charge.

(For more information about the upcoming banquet, Contact Evidane Charlise Slaughter at 901-237-2197.)

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Code Crew continues to address poverty with STEM skills

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — In July 2018, Myiah Hill was a 27-year-old single mother of three, on public assistance and living in subsidized housing, making $5,000 a year and fresh out of options. Six months later, she is fielding job offers from Memphis companies as a fully trained and educated software engineer pulling an annual salary of $50,000.

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For Code Crew Executive Director Meka Egwuekwe, extending computer science education to underserved children and adults is a way to address poverty. (Courtesy photo)
For Code Crew Executive Director Meka Egwuekwe, extending computer science education to underserved children and adults is a way to address poverty. (Courtesy photo)

By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

In July 2018, Myiah Hill was a 27-year-old single mother of three, on public assistance and living in subsidized housing, making $5,000 a year and fresh out of options. Six months later, she is fielding job offers from Memphis companies as a fully trained and educated software engineer pulling an annual salary of $50,000.

“I told Meka he is doing the work of the Lord,” said Hill. “People living in poverty are given an opportunity to get an education in computer science so they can take care of their families. God is in that. It’s God’s work and I am so grateful. Code Crew was transformative and life-changing for me.”

Hill is just one of many success stories coming out of Code Crew, a computer science education entity which offers field training for Shelby County Schools students and an intensive, concentrated boot camp for adults seeking a challenging, new career and a way out of poverty.

“We have been in the schools mentoring and teaching children computer science skills,” said Code Crew Executive Director Meka Egwuekwe. His father is Nigerian, but he grew up right here in South Memphis.

“The Code School for adults is only a year old,” Egwuekwe said. “Our initial target was opportunity youth, at-risk young people between the ages of 16 and 24. Back in 2015 when we started, there were 45,000 of these young people. Many are not in school or working. Job prospects are bleak and opportunities for them are scarce. For our size of market, Memphis had the highest percentage of opportunity youth in the nation.”

For Egwuekwe, clearly, there was something to be done about that. Computer science careers seem to be the wave of the future, but too many underserved children and adults did not have access to a computer science education. They would have no opportunity to access the thousands of open software development positions in Memphis.

“The city’s biggest issue is poverty,” said Egwuekwe. “Many people feel that our big problem is crime, but Dr. King said poverty and ignorance breeds crime. I wanted to do something to make Memphis greater. I wanted to help.

“I was a 19-year software engineer when we received funding from the Memphis Grizzlies to teach middle-school kids how to create apps at the Lester Community Center in Binghampton,” said Egwuekwe. “That effort grew, and we saw it as a way of moving the needle for students who had no computer science education. But now, a law has just passed in Tennessee mandating that schools have to provide computer science education.”

The six-month Code School program accepts adults of any age with the drive and commitment to complete the course of study. A new career and middle-class salary awaits, but it’s not easy, said Egwuekwe.

“Anyone who is willing to put in the time, show up for class, do the homework, and complete the projects can successfully complete the program,” he said. “Nothing is just handed to anyone. It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off in the end.”

Everyone who enrolls is individually assessed after eight or nine weeks. Those who show a real commitment are invited at that time to continue the program. For others, “the program is over for them at that point,” said Egwuekwe.

Code Crew is a nonprofit organization. In addition to operating the six-month Code School for adults, its outreach programs presently impact 300 students each week. Of those students, 90 percent are African American and Latino. Forty-one percent are female.

(Code Crew is supported by the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation and FedEx. For more information and registration, call 901-299-1720 or visit www.code-crew.org.)

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents. About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

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Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)
Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)

By Lee Eric Smith

Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents.

About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

The full results from spring testing are scheduled to be released next week, but Memphis district officials shared the statistic this week at a meeting with parents on a new retention policy that will hold back second grade students who aren’t reading on grade level. The policy will begin in the 2021-22 school year.

Antonio Burt, the district’s chief academic officer, declined to speculate on why the scores dipped. Rather, he said the district would be looking to hone existing strategies — such as daily 45-minute small-group instruction and teacher leaders dedicated to foundational reading skills — and equip new second grade teacher assistants.

“The work and the need around K through 2 is so important,” he told Chalkbeat after Wednesday’s community meeting at Gaisman Community Center to explain the district’s retention plan.

“And as a state, we’re still recovering from the standards shift,” he added later about the state’s 2016 change to a new test with tougher requirements.

The news is a blow to the district’s efforts to strengthen early literacy, which has been a priority for the Memphis district. Superintendent Joris Ray and his leadership team often point to the correlation between third grade reading levels and a similar percentage of students considered college-ready on the ACT test.

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

“We know that if our kids that don’t master reading prior to third grade, they’re four times more likely to drop out of school,” Burt told parents Wednesday evening. “That same student would then be four times more likely to be incarcerated.”


Related: Learn more about the English curriculum that was introduced in late 2017


Shelby County Schools is aiming to have 90% of its third grade students reading proficiently by the year 2025. That’s higher than the state’s goal of 75% for that same year.

This year’s kindergarten class would be the first group that could be held back a year because of Shelby County Schools new retention policy, Burt said. The district will require students to meet eight of 12 benchmarks, including minimum report card grades and reading scores, throughout the year in order to pass second grade.

Candace Marshall, a prekindergarten teacher and parent, said she mostly favors the retention policy and had faced resistance at a Memphis charter school when she wanted her niece to repeat first grade.

“I don’t want her to be a statistic. It made me question how many other kids get passed along,” she told Chalkbeat.

The post Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students appeared first on Chalkbeat.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Duo teams up for food and clothing drive for homeless veterans on Saturday

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

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(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)
(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)

By Destiny Royston

Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

On Aug. 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., Help the Homeless Veterans will hosted a food and clothing drive in downtown Memphis at the corner of Adams Avenue and Main Street.

Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon, who served in the Army for 10 years and went on four combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, is spearheading the event that will provide food, clothing and other needed items for the homeless and those who are struggling. Wilson-Chatmon and her husband are both disabled veterans..

Jalissa Marshall, who is the wife of another disabled vet, will be alongside Wilson-Chatmon helping with the event to bring awareness to homelessness.

“Jalissa and I discuss these issues all the time,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We decided it was time to turn words into actions, and that was the birth of ‘Help the Homeless Veterans Food and Clothing Giveaway.’

Being a disabled vet, Wilson-Chatmon knows the harsh reality about men and women who have served the nation who now face homelessness and hunger.

Veteran or not, people who are in need of items, food and clothing are encouraged to come to the event, as many organizations around the city that assist those in need have strict qualifications that many don’t meet. Their goal is to look out for everyone because homelessness and hunger know no criteria.

The ladies hope to serve at least 50 personnel. Wilson-Chatmon wants to continue sponsoring events like this so that she and her team can become a well-established nonprofit organization that does more than hand out items in Memphis.

She wants to provide shelter and help rebuild communities and cater to everyone, especially those who don’t meet the qualifications of the larger organizations.

“No one deserves to sleep on the streets. As a community, it starts with us,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We hope to inspire others to act no matter how small.”

Supporters of veterans can donate items such as water and clothing at Watson’s Barber & Beauty Shop on 2236 Pendleton St., until Aug. 9.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Push to ban plastic bag sat groceries falls short

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

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By Erica R. Williams

Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

“This is an effort for us to do something different in the State of Tennessee,” Councilman Berlin Boyd, who sponsored the ordinance, said before the vote.

Boyd has continued to push for the ban despite a recent state law barring cities from regulating single-use plastic such as grocery bags. He argues that using them is costing the city too much money.

“If we pass this here, it will give us the leverage to negotiate on a state level,” he told fellow council members.

Some have complained that lawmakers are considering the bans to cater to plastic-industry lobbyists. Boyd said that’s not it, pointing out that the city’s Division of Public Works spends $3 million each year to dispose of the bags.

Last year before proposing the ban, Boyd suggested a seven-cent fee on plastic bags that shoppers take from retail stores. He then reduced the proposed fee to five cents earlier this year.

In other action

* Memphis 3.0 was dropped from this council meeting’s agenda. Last month council members voted on hiring an outside consultant to review the comprehensive development plan. They will delay voting until after the consultant’s review of the plan.

The consultant has until September 17 to present findings.

The Memphis 3.0 plan had been challenged by New Chicago community members who believe the plan excludes some neighborhoods based on race. A $10 billion lawsuit filed against the city was later dismissed.

Mayor Jim Strickland has signed an executive order that allows parts of the 3.0 plan to move forward.

* Council members approved an honorary street name change for Bishop David Allen Hall Sr., longtime pastor of Temple Church of God In Christ at 672 S. Lauderdale. The resolution calls for a street name of East Georgia Ave. between South Lauderdale and South Orleans. Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson sponsored the resolution.

* The council delayed voting on the third and final reading of an ordinance that would present new rules for public art placement.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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