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Meet The Woman Who Just Made History As Charlotte’s First Black Female Mayor

“With this opportunity you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness.”

It was a historic night in Charlotte, North Carolina as the city elected its first black female mayor on Tuesday (Nov. 7). Democrat Vi Lyles, won 58 percent of the vote to Republican rival, Kenny Smith, reports the Charlotte Oberserver.

“With this opportunity you’ve given me, you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness,” Lyles told supporters. “You’ve proven that a woman whose father didn’t graduate from high school can become this city’s first female African-American mayor.”

Smith, 44, congratulated Lyles on the win, but admitted to being “caught off guard” by the results, since voter turnout in Charlotte was higher than expected.

A native of Columbiam South Carolina, Lyles is no stranger to braking barriers. Despite growing up in the “deeply segregated South” she was one of the first black women to attend Queens University (formerly Queens College) where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. She went on to earn a Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The 66-year-old grandmother worked as a budget official and as assistant city manager for three decades. She also held the title of Director of Community Outreach for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and will be the first former city administrator in the mayor’s office, according to the Oberserver.

While Lyles' victory comes a year after protests erupted in Charlotte after the District Attorney Andrew Murray decided not to charge officer Brentley Vinson in the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, it remains to be seen if the win can bring about change in a city where the median income for white families is more than 86 percent higher than that of black and Hispanic households.

And the racial disparities extend to the state's judicial system, as more than half of those incarcerated in North Carolina are black.

In a message on Facebook Wednesday (Nov. 8) Lyles thanked voters and vowed to lead as she has for “nearly 40 years in public service.”

“When I decided to run for Mayor, I made a commitment to you that I will get the job done,” she wrote. My belief that our police and communities need to trust one another; our transportation system should have multiple, affordable options for all; and 
everyone should have a job and a safe neighborhood to live in. That’s not changed.

“As your mayor, I’ll act on these beliefs, and these values will guide my decisions. I’m calling for action from day one, and I’m ready.”

Lyles isn’t alone in the history-making election. Several cities elected black mayors for the first time on Tuesday.

The election also marked victories for a diverse group of candidates, including the newly-elected Sikh mayor of Hoboken N.J., two openly trans women earning seats in the Virginia state legislator and Minneapolis City Council, and wins for Asian and Latino candidates.

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Texas Appeals Court Grants Stay Of Execution For Rodney Reed Stay

A Texas Criminal Appeals Court granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution on Friday (Nov. 15). The decision came hours after the state’s parole board recommended that Reed’s lethal injection be delayed by 120-days.

Reed was scheduled to be lethally injected on Nov. 20. Although the court decision means that he no longer has an execution date, the parole board failed to approve a request to commute Reed's sentence to life in prison, the Washington Post reports.

The 51-year-old Texas native has spent that last two decades on death row for the1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Reed has filed numerous appeals over the years but his story only recently went viral catching the attention of lawmakers and celebrities including Rihanna, Oprah, Beyonce, T.I., Kim Kardashian West, the latter of whom was visiting with Reed when his execution was delayed.

Reed, who has long maintained his innocence, says Stite's was killed by her fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Fennell’s lawyer Robert Phillips “laughed off” Reed’s allegations, according to numerous reports.

Fennell served 10 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping and rape of another woman while working as a police officer in 2007. He was briefly suspected in Stite’s murder. Authorities turned their attention to Reed after his DNA was found inside Stites, from what he contends was a consensual relationship. Reed, who is black, believes that race played a part in the case because Stites was a white woman. He was convicted by an all-white jury.

Reed’s legal team has also provided evidence to prove his innocence, including new witnesses.

"We’re happy that we’re going to have an opportunity to present the compelling evidence that Rodney Reed didn’t commit the crime," Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, who took on Reed’s case, told The Texas Tribune. "The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the substance of this case and the need for a special hearing where all the evidence can be considered."

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Trailblazers Portrayed In 'Hidden Figures' To Receive Congressional Gold Medals

Engineers Mary Jackson and Christine Darden, mathematician Katherine Johnson and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughn are being honored with the highest U.S. civilian award.

The four trailblazers, three of whom were depicted in the film Hidden Figures, will receive Congressional Gold Medal, ABC News reports. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) helped introduce the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, a bipartisan bill signed by President Donald Trump last Friday (Nov. 8).

As the highest civilian award in the U.S., the Congressional Gold Medal recognizes those who have performed an achievement that has had a lasting impact on American history and culture.

Johnson, who celebrated her 101st birthday last summer, calculated trajectories for numerous NASA space missions beginning in the early 1950s. Vaughn, who died in 2008, led the West Area Computing unit for nine years, and was the first black supervisors at the national Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which later became NASA.

Jackson, who died in 2005, was NASA’s first black engineer. Darden became an engineer at NASA 16 years after Jackson and went on to “revolutionize aeronautic design.” She was also the first black person to be promoted to Senior Executive at NASA's Langley Research Center, and has also authored more than 50 articles on aeronautics design.

“Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden made monumental contributions to science and our nation,” said Senator Harris. “The groundbreaking accomplishments of these four women, and all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA, helped us win the space race but remained in the dark far too long. I am proud our bill to honor these remarkable women has passed Congress. These pioneers remain a beacon for Black women across the country, both young and old.”

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Courtesy of Crawford Family, WVLT

Authorities Release Grisly Details Of Alexis Crawford’s Murder

Alexis Crawford was strangled to death before her body was thrown in a trash bin, the Fulton Country Superior Court revealed in court documents released on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

Crawford died on Oct. 31, reports the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Four days earlier, the 21-year-old Clark Atlanta University senior filed a police report against her roommate, Jordyn Jones's boyfriend, Barron Bentley, accusing him of sexual assault. Crawford had a rape kit performed on her at a local hospital. Crawford's decision to go to police caused tension between her and Jones, which erupted in a physical fight.

“As a result of the physical altercation, Barron Brantley choked the victim until she was deceased,” the Atlanta Police Department said.

After killing Crawford, Jones and Brantley, both age 21, stuffed her body into a “plastic bin” and transported it to Exchange Park in Decatur, Ga., where they left her remains.

Crawford and Jones knew each other for at least two years, and became close while studying at Clark Atlanta. The Michigan native even visited Crawford’s family’s home during the holidays.

Brantley confessed to Crawford's murder and led police to her body last Friday (Nov. 7). Jones was arrested the following day.

Brantley and Jones are both charged with felony murder and are being held without bond.

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