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The Forgotten Americans Of The Virgin Islands Are Still Without Power, But Full Of Hope

The people of the U.S. Virgin Islands are using social media to fend for help. 

As the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria continued to haunt Puerto Rico, Americans on the Virgin Islands have been left with little to no resources.

Over the weekend (Oct. 13), a Twitter account ran by residents of St. John reminded everyone that the island is still without power. "St. John, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has been without power since September 6."

Last month, Hurricane Irma hit St. John Sept. 7 with Maria's wrath arriving 14 days later. Shortly after the storm, 1,200 military personnel were sent to the island.

"When your roof starts to peel away and you are inside there and then your windows start to go and the walls start collapsing when you are in that structure — that is awful. The emotional ride of going through any hurricane is devastating," U.S.V.I. Gov. Kenneth Mapp, told Fox News last month. "You begin to think it is abating and then it comes back more ferocious. You begin to believe your structure is going to hold and in the last two hours it begins to disappear and then water comes through everywhere."

President Donald Trump was expected to meet with Governor Mapp to discuss relief efforts on St. Thomas, but instead spoke to him aboard the assault ship Kearsarge off Puerto Rico. Weeks later, Trump bragged about the Islands while forgetting the 103,000 across the islands were Americans."The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we're be there, we're going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice," he flubbed during a Values Voter Summit in Washington last week.

The New York Times reports leaders may remain coy on asking for money because of the $2 billion it owes creditors. “I’m so at a loss right now and really trying to hold it together because we were on the brink before this, in terms of our finances,” Representative Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands delegate to Congress, told The Times. 

Last week, The VI Hurricane and Resiliency Advisory Group was launched to help with the tracking of private donations and a creation of a recovery plan to resuscitate the islands' most important revenue–tourism.

Little has been reported on the well being of the people, but social media has proven to be a safe haven for those on the islands. After @NewsofStJohn's tweet went viral, their blog published several videos that showed ravage on the island.

Commenters between the videos were happy to see the island getting its look back, but residents have more on their minds than flowers finding their roots again.

Facebook groups like St. Croix Maria Check InSt. Croix, 00820 USVI and Government House - US Virgin Islands feature updates on programs, curfews, GoFundMe's and relief programs to help across the islands. Residents are also using their pages to post about goods and and updates for their fellow neighbor.

In an op-ed published with The TimesPeter Bailey shared how neighbors helping neighbors is the best relief the island has gotten since September. "At one point as the storm shrieked, I wondered if the world was ending and we, in America’s sole majority-black territory, were going to have the misfortune of being the first to go," he says in the Oct. 11 piece titled, Has America Forgotten The Virgin Islands?

Bailey speaks of neighbors and his elderly mother using machetes and other tools to help rebuild their home located in Nazareth, St. Thomas.

"My 74-year-old mother, machete in hand, was in her garden clearing brush away from her beloved mango, star fruit and soursop trees. “I’m just happy the rest of the roof remained! God is good!” she called up to me. Her gray Afro made her now look royal," he said. Like many others on the island, Bailey has found comfort through the spirit of his neighbor instead of any FEMA or national guardsmen.

Retired basketball player Tim Duncan made his return to St. Croix a number of times in September, feeding just over 2,000 people. "I wouldn't have wanted any of this to happen," Duncan told Bleacher Report. "But it's been a good thing for me to come here and give back. Without what happened—without the storms—I probably would have just stayed in my little shell. There was no way around it though: Helping had to mean stepping out of my comfort zone."

So what happens now? No one seems to know, but hope and the hand of a friendly neighbor are giving Americans the hope they've begged for from No. 45 and their government. For now, it's a dangerous waiting game with thousands of lives at stake.

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102-Year-Old Woman Evicted From Home To Make Room For Landlord’s Daughter

A 102-year-old woman living in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Ladera Heights is being evicted from her home of three decades. Thelma Smith was notified on March 8 that she has to move out so that the landlord’s daughter can move into the single-family home, after she graduates from law school.

Smith was on a month-to-month lease and has been paying “very low rent,” her longtime neighbor told the L.A. Times. She has to be out of the home by June 30.

While Smith’s eviction is legal, as landlords have the right to evict tenants to help relatives under L.A.'s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival told the Times that the law is used to “target low-income paying tenants.”

Smith is a former director of the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, a Los Angeles-based charity aimed at serving underprivileged youth. She has yet to find a new home, and rejected her neighbor’s offer to move in, but it looks like she’ll be getting housing assistance from Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor and former California Governor vowed to help Smith, whom he called a “dear friend for a long time.”

“Imagine doing this to a 102-year-old woman who gave back to the community her whole life. It is heartless,” he tweeted Friday (May 24). Schwarzenegger went on to state that he will be reaching out to Smith. “Landlords, you’ll hear from me too,” he added.

Thelma has been a dear friend for a long time. Imagine doing this to a 102-year-old woman who gave back to the community her whole life. It is heartless. Thelma, I’ll be reaching out to help. Landlords, you’ll hear from me too.

— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) May 24, 2019

Landlord Arthur Hilton explained to CBS News that the home was never meant to be a rental property, even though Smith had been living there for 30 years. “This property was purchased by my parents not for rental but for the Hilton family,” he said.

Smith, a widow who never had children, planned to live in the home for the remainder of her life.

See more on her story in the video above.

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Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

Rey Ma Facing Additional Charges In Alleged Assault Against Brittney Taylor

Rey Ma has been hit with additional charges in an ongoing assault case in which she stands accused of attacking former Love & Hip Hop: New York cast member Brittney Taylor. The Bronx native appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court Friday (May 24) where she was arraigned on four misdemeanor charges, according to TMZ.

Although Remy was initially charged with assault, and turned herself in to authorities earlier in the month, she now faces two counts of third-degree assault, one count of second-degree aggravated harassment, and one count of second-degree harassment. She was offered the option to plead guilty to the top charge and enter anger management in exchange for having the other charges dropped but reportedly rejected the deal.

A trial date has been set of July 12.

Taylor claims Remy punched her in the eyed during a run-in at the Pretty Lou Charity Concert at New York City’s Irving Plaza last month. Remy was among the event performers along with Fat Joe, Jim Jones and more. She denies attacking Taylor and claims to have video evidence proving her innocence. TMZ reports that prosecutors have since changed the time of when the supposed altercation took place to line up with the time that Remy would have been at the venue.

Upon leaving the courtroom Friday, Remy didn’t mince words when speaking about going to trial. “Who looks forward to going to trial? I have things to do in my life,” she said according to the New York Daily News. “I have a real job, I have a family, I have a husband, I have a daughter.”

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34 black female cadets from West Point's Class of 2019 pose at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Cadet Hallie H. Pound/U.S. Army via AP

Black Women Cadets Make History At West Point Graduation

A record number of black female cadets are set to graduate from West Point (The United States Military Academy). After completing four years of education and "testing their limits," 34 black women will be walking across the stage at the 2019 commencement ceremony for the first time in the school's 217-year history.

Earlier this month, the black female cadets came together for a pre-graduation group photo. Little did they know, the photos of them in traditional Old Corps uniforms with ceremonial sabers would make their rounds on social media.

“My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability an fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” shared one of the cadets, Tiffany Welch-Baker, in an interview with Because Of Them We Can.

Although West Point admitted its first black cadet until 1870, the academy didn’t graduate its first black cadet until the Reconstruction in 1877. In 1979, Vincent K. Brooks was made the first black captain of the Corps of Cadets. In 2017, Simone Askew became the first Black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets.

Senior cadet Stephanie Riley told The Associated Press in another interview: “I just showed myself and those who thought I couldn’t do it initially that yes, I can. And not just, ‘Yes, I can.’ I can show other little girls that yes, you can come to West Point. Yes, you can do something that maybe the rest of your peers aren’t actually doing. And yes, you can be different from the rest of the group.”

The class of 2019 includes a total of 223 women, another milestone since the first female cadets' graduation in 1980. The total number of graduation African-Americans doubled to 110, while the number of graduating Latinos became the largest, 88, in the academy's history. West Point also appointed Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams as its first black superintendent in July 2018.

Not only will West Point be graduating its 5,000th female cadet, but it will also have its highest number of female Hispanic graduates, 19. The commencement ceremony is set for Saturday, May 25, with Vice President Mike Pence delivering the commencement speech.

Congratulations to the black ladies of West Point's graduating Class of 2019!

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