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Seattle To Vacate Marijuana Convictions Stating It Unfairly Targeted People Of Color

Of the more than 500 convictions, 46 percent of those behind bars are African-Americans.

For six years, marijuana has been legal in Seattle and now the state is taking measures to overturn convictions of those sent to prison on misdemeanor charges, which disproportionately affect people of color.

According to CNN, all seven judges on the city's municipal court agreed to vacate convictions from 1996 to 2010. Of the more than 500 cases during that time period, 46 percent involve African-Americans. The racial demographic of the other convictions include 46 percent white, three percent Asian, three percent Native American, and two percent unknown.

The convictions will be cleared by mid-November after the courts mail notifications giving the individual an opportunity to object or inquire about an individualized finding. Anyone who doesn't respond will automatically have their conviction vacated.

Mayor Jenny Durken said the vacated convictions are a step in the right direction.

"We've taken another important step to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs, and to build true economic opportunity for all," she said. "While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we will continue to act to give Seattle residents -- including immigrants and refugees -- a clean slate."

The motion to vacate misdemeanor marijuana charges was filed in April by city attorney Pete Holmes, who argued that black men and women were three times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.

"Dismissing this charge reflects Seattle's values and recognizes the negative collateral consequences of a drug conviction, including difficulty in finding employment or getting into college or the military, obtaining student loans or government subsidized housing qualifying for food stamps or other government assistance, being allowed entry into some foreign countries and obtaining child custody or adoption," the motion stated.

READ MORE: Oakland Gives Weed Convicts Opportunity To Open Marijuana Businesses As Reparations

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Black People Make Up More Than 50% Of U.S. Homeless Population, Study Finds

Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, per an Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Housing and Urban Department. According to the report, blacks account for more than 50% of the country’s homeless population, despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population.

“African Americans have remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population,” the report states. “African Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 and 52% of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children.

“In contrast, 48% of all people experiencing homelessness were white, compared with 77% of the U.S. population.” People identifying as Hispanic or Latino are bout “22% of the homeless population but only 18% of the populations overall.”

As of 2019, the U.S. homeless population swelled to 568,000, an increase of about 10,000 from the previous year. In 2019, Roughly 35,000 of those experiencing unaccompanied homelessness were under the age of 25, a 4% decrease from 2018. The number of those experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 9% between 2018 and 2019.

A staggering 52% of black families experience homelessness, compared to 35% for white families.

The goal of the report is to “demonstrate continued progress toward ending homelessness, but also a need to re-calibrate policy to make future efforts more effective and aligned with the unique needs of different communities.”

HUD, which is has been releasing the annual housing stats since 2007, shows a 3% bump in the number of those experiencing homelessness on any given night, a 16% increase in California, and a “decrease” in other states. California accounts for 53% (108,432 people) off all unsheltered homeless people in the country. Despite being only twice as large as Florida, California’s homeless population is nine times that of the Sunshine State, which came in at a distant second place with 6% (12,476 people). New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington have the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people.

Numerous variables come into play when determining the origin of the black homeless epidemic due to a longstanding system of oppression in housing, and beyond. Black families are twice as  likely to experience poverty in the U.S., compared to white families; and in spite of laws against open discrimination, black renters face overt and covert financial and racial prejudice, in addition to gentrification and the racial pay gap.

On Jan. 7, HUD unveiled a housing proposal that attempts to undue Obama-era housing mandates put in place to prevent racial discrimination. The newly-released proposal may end up further promoting racial discrimination.

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Black Texas Teen Barred From Graduation Because Of His Dreadlocks

A black Texas teen was suspended and is barred from graduation because of his dreadlocks, NBC News reports. DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, has to cut his hair if he wants to walk the graduation stage.

DeAndre, whose family hales from Trinidad, has had locks for several years, gets A’s and B’s in school, and wears his hair in compliance with the school’s dress code, his mother, Sandy Arnold, told Houston’s NBC affiliate KPRC. “The dress code is [hair] off the shoulders above the earlobes and out of the eyes,” she explained.

The school district allegedly changed the dress code around Christmas of last year. According to the latest Barbers Hill Student Handbook, hair must be “clean and well groomed.” Students are not allowed to cover their heads, dye their hair, or wear “geometric or unusual patterns (such as Mohawks and Faux hawks) shaved or cut in the hair.” For male students, hair can’t fall below the eyebrows or earlobes and must not extend “below the top of a T-shirt collar.”Beards, goatees and mustaches are also not allowed.

DeAndre’s mother said that she reached out to board members and the superintendent to rectify the issue but with no luck.

“They say that even [when] my hair is up if it were down it would be not in compliance with the dress code. However, I don’t take it down in school,” said DeAndre.

The teen proudly rock his dreadlocks because the hairstyle connects him to Trinidadian culture. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture. I really embrace that.”

Barbers Hill Independent School District released a statement noting that the district enforces a “community supported hair length policy” that has been in place “for decades.” The statement adds, “Barber Hill is a state leader with high expectations in all areas!”

The teenager's story is similar to that of a 6-year-old boy in Texas whose school also wanted him to cut off his dreadlocks. DeAndre's mother said her son won’t be getting a hair cut. “This is a pat of who he is. So [we're] absolutely not going to cut his hair.”

See more in the video above.

 

 

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Tashonna Ward: 25-Year-Old Woman Dies After Waiting Hours In ER

The family of the 25-year-old Wisconsin woman are seeking answers following her tragic death earlier in the month. Tashonna Ward, a daycare worker whose newborn daughter died last year, passed away after waiting nearly three hours in the emergency room at Wisconsin's Froedtert Hospital where she sought treatment for chest pains and shortness of breath.

Ward checked into the ER at 4:58 p.m on Jan. 2, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. During the wait, hospital staff checked Ward’s heartbeat and she underwent an x-ray, the latter of which showed that she had an enlarged heart.

She was sent back to the waiting room.

"I been here since 4:30 something for shortness of breath, and chest pains for them to just say it’s a two to SIX hour wait to see a [doctor]. Like that is really f***ing ridiculous,” Ward reportedly wrote on Facebook according to NBC News.

Ward left Froedtert to go to another hospital at around 7:30 p.m., but never made it. She collapsed soon after and was rushed back to Froedtert where she was pronounced dead.

“How can you triage someone with shortness of breath and chest pain, and stick them in the lobby?" Ward’s cousin, Andrea Ward, said according to the Journal Sentinel. Andrea launched a Go Fund Me  account to raise funds for her cousin’s funeral.

A rep for Froedtert expressed condolences over Ward's death . “The family is in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathy,” a rep for the hospital said in a statement. “We cannot comment further at this time.”

Ward had previously been told that she developed an enlarged heart during her pregnancy. Her baby died last March after the baby’s umbilical chord wrapped around the its neck.

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death among men women in the U.S., the risks are even higher for black women. According to 2017 statistics, nearly half of black women over the age of 20 battle some type of heart disease.

Black women are also at higher risk of dying from pregnancy complications. While there are several variables at play (like a lack of access to proper health care), the larger issue is that black women are often “undervalued,” noted Dr. Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in an interview with the American Heart Association.

“[Black women] are not monitored as carefully as white women are,” said Langer. “When they do present with symptoms, they are often dismissed.”

Ward’s family are reportedly scheduled to meet with the hospital next week. The hospital has received numerous online complaints over the years, many of which involve billing issues but also treatment and long wait periods.

A Yelp review  posted last year warned patients not to believe the 23-minute wait time touted at the hospital. The woman and her ailing child left the hospital after waiting for six hours “without being evaluated other than a [five-minute] ‘triage.’”

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