Civil Rights Movement's 'Matriarch' Honored
Mrs. Juanita Jones Abernathy is recognized and honored by the Atlanta City Council, on Monday, April 15, for her exemplary service and various accomplishments rendered since 1955, at the beginning of the modern-day civil rights movement, established in Montgomery, Ala. The widow of Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, the civil rights leader who co-founded the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Mrs. Abernathy is the last living participant of initial civil rights campaigns which began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in 1955, and the subsequent arrest of Mrs. Rosa Parks in "the cradle of the Confederacy." Mrs. Abernathy partnered and toiled alongside her husband for years toward African-Americans' plight to obtain justice and equality with voting, employment, housing and education rights, as well as advancing the cause of equality for all people. Applauding Mrs. Abernathy, the mother of four and grandmother of five, at the City Council chamber's podium were family and friends, including son Ralph 3rd (left), grandson Micah and daughter Donzaleigh (right). (Not shown are youngest son Kwame, along with daughter-in-law Annette.) At far left is City Councilman Michael Julian Bond, sponsor of the legislation to honor Mrs. Abernathy, a retired Mary Kay regional sales director who now serves as secretary of the board of directors for Atlanta's transit system, MARTA.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
HBCU Students Arrested For Rape, Kidnapping
BY DAVID STOKES
As President Obama prepares to come to Atlanta as this year's commencement speaker next weekend, on May 19, for graduating seniors of Morehouse College in southwest Atlanta, some of its students and faculty have been "taken aback" and are in "shock and disbelief" over last week's revelations of four student athletes being arrested and jailed early last month for crimes of a sexual nature against a freshman Spelman College student.
While no Morehouse official was available for comment at presstime to discuss the felonies filed against the students by law enforcement authorities, which occurred during Spring break in March, as well as details of the incident were still being identified, students speaking on- and off-the-record for this late-breaking story were either unfazed or chagrined by the latest known act of violence to have taken place near the historically black college-university (HBCU), affectionately known as the Atlanta University education complex's "crown jewel." The elite all-male school which boasts itself on developing potential cream of the crop titans in politics, science, health and business has been dealt another black eye with image as three Maroon Tigers basketball players have been accused of aggravated sodomy, rape, kidnapping and reckless conduct, charges filed following accusations that they allegedly drugged, raped and kidnapped an 18 year old Spelman College student during an off-campus Spring break party the week of March 11. (Additionally, an unrelated case was also revealed last week in which a Morehouse football player has been charged with raping another Spelmanite.) Nevertheless, the three basketball players—Malcolm Jamal Frank, Tevon Mgbo and Chukwudi Ndudikwa—were arrested on April 11 for the aforementioned crimes, being accused of raping the unidentified Spelman student after allegedly being supplied "some sort of substance," later identified as a form of Ecstasy, thereby resulting in "nonconsenting sex" with the three students, according to the Morehouse police report, shown exclusively to The Inquirer by one who chose to remain anonymous. Late last week, Morehouse released a statement pertaining to the incident: "While we cannot speak of the specifics of the incident, our policies and procedures call for disciplinary action against students who violate our code of conduct and the law, up to, and including, dismissal from the college." Also, no comment from Spelman College officials was available at presstime; however, while indicating Morehouse officials' commitment to assist authorities with the ongoing investigations, students on the Westview Drive campus, in particular, voiced concern and dismay on the perceived adverse role the school has received in years on "less strictful" policy and procedures as it applies to students fraternizing with Spelman schoolmates, and what "appears to be a less frigid and less caring of the law," in general, according to another student requesting anonymity for this article. The rising senior added, "It's amazing with the differences I see today (as opposed to initially) arriving here three years ago. The initial culture shock was one thing, but the prostitution (on nearby community streets) falling onto the campus, plus the drugs and alcohol in the community eventually hitting the campus is quite another thing."
The times have greatly changed since the days of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., renowned educator Benjamin E. Mays, actor-producer Spike Lee, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, actor Samuel L. Jackson and others, respectively, as Morehouse students. Civil demonstrations for human rights of yesteryear have today become protestations for equitable opportunities with employment, voting, education and other aspects toward a productive life. However, "Today's youth are not as patient nor commensurate to compromise as we were," stated Oliver Cook, a southwest Atlanta resident who lives near Morehouse College. He continued with pronouncing surprise upon hearing the latest sexual assault imbroglio ensnaring the school: "In a minute, the young men there will have obliterated the prestige of (Morehouse) if these sexual assaults continue to (arise). There just seems to be no respect for heritage and education at Morehouse today." Reports of alleged assault against the Spelman student became known upon the female student later awakening from the party, realizing something was awry and ultimately went to Grady Memorial Hospital for observation. As the incident was reported to campus, all of the accused have declared their innocence. Students who were in attendance at the party where both victims and accused were present indicated no force was evident upon witnessing their demeanor. With students and community 'outsiders' wondering the next step involving the law with the alleged rape, a town hall meeting at Morehouse took place the previous week at the MLK International Chapel, indicated a rising junior choosing anonymity for this story. College President John Wilson, Jr. gathered the "Morehouse men" speaking on sexual and rape, along with "treating our fellow brethren and sisters with respect and love," the student said. "We were shocked when (Wilson) told us about (fellow students) being arrested for rape..., and against one of our (Spelman) 'sisters.' It was just unbelievable." Another student shook his head in "amazement": "Just getting a good education is difficult enough. I cannot imagine anybody here taking advantage of a woman for sex ... where the law will come down hard on you. Why would a (student) risk his education for that type of betrayal—and against a Spelman sister, too?" While calls were unreturned by Atlanta Police and Fulton Co. District Attorney's office personnel to ascertain future court dates on the alleged crimes, the recent incidences of alleged rape are not first occurrences at Morehouse College. Within the past decade, several incidences have not only rattled the student body and chipped away at the school's pristine image, students have raised awareness with protests and seminars to educate at-home and out-of-town students of dangers of surrounding communities, as well as administering individual safety on and off the campus. Furthermore, as ethos and general principles within the Morehouse community are highlighted—where violence is the "antithesis of the values and morals of a Morehouse man"—President Wilson and other administrators are set to remind the student body, after the town hall last month during Sexual Awareness Month, "how we are to act responsibly and honorably with females, especially, as well as our fellow brethren," the junior stated. "What I see as our challenge right now is not only being supportive of our brothers in the wake of this crisis, but also forging ahead with teaching respect and tolerance for each other, no matter our differences, and sustaining Morehouse College as the great educational institution it has been for many years. This is our school, and we can not afford to diminish its presence or its noteworthy value."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Longtime News Anchor Retires
BY DAVID STOKES
While viewers of Atlanta and north Georgia acclimate themselves, nearly one year later, to the retirement of legendary news anchor Monica (Kaufman) Pearson from WSB-TV/Channel 2, after 37 years of service, came the announcement last week that the second most-watched news channel in Atlanta, WAGA-TV/Fox 5, has ultimately forced the retirement of another fixture of television news in the country's eighth largest mass media market, Amanda Davis.
Late last month, on April 25, Ms. Davis was allowed to videotape what was a five minute message to viewers, during its popular 10pm. newscast, of the plan for retirement following a prolonged imbroglio upon her arrest last fall for DUI, in November, near the Atlanta Civic Center. Ms. Davis had been absent from the top-rated number two newscast for months, amid inquiries by viewers on whether she would return to co-anchor the newscast with her self-described "tv husband," Russ Spencer. During her message to viewers, followed by dialogue with Spencer and "Cookie," Davis' nickname for chief meteorologist Ken Cook, she reminisced of her years at Fox 5, along with other years on Atlanta television, period, which started with a five-year stint, in 1983, at the top-rated WSB/Channel 2 newsroom as a reporter/substitute anchor. In 1988, however, Davis transitioned to Fox 5, amid a contract negotiations breakdown with WSB/Channel 2 management, to become a permanent news anchor at the midtown station. For the next 25 years, Ms. Davis increased her presence and 'stock' with north Georgians as a primetime anchor, along with presenting weekly installments of the station's "Wednesday's Child" segment and hosting, every January, the annual Commemorative Service in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, NE. "Moving on to the next chapter of my life," Davis also indicated to viewers her desire to remain in Atlanta with family, but gave no indication of the next move professionally. Nevertheless, for the past six months, viewers and co-workers have missed the impeccably dressed and coiffed news personality. While she has enjoyed a respectable reputation and assisted with Fox 5's gains in news ratings, Davis has been in trouble prior to the most recent DUI charge. In the early '90s, Davis was arrested for DUI but no other individual was involved with the incident. In last Fall's incident, Davis wrecked her car with an oncoming car while driving in the opposite direction's lane. No injuries were reported. Four months ago, in January, at Fulton County State Court, her case was continued for a later date toward final adjudication. Furthermore, the litigation kept Ms. Davis in lingo and off the air indefinitely, to the chagrin of viewers. "She deserves a second chance ... and we want her back giving us the news," indicated Jackie Stone, an Atlanta Inquirer reader and "daily" viewer of Fox 5 news. "We miss her," Stone relayed, which was the general sentiment of many viewers, according to a Fox 5 news producer, speaking exclusively with the desire to remain anonymous for this story. "She is very much loved (by viewers), and is missed here in the newsroom," the WAGA employee said. "But in such a sensitive profession where actions count with (viewers), we must always be mindful of how we act outside of the station—even when not during working hours. Reputation is everything in this business." Seeking a comment from Fox 5 management on Davis' departure, station Manager Bill Snyder did not return calls by presstime.
In a related story involving another news personality, Elle Duncan of WXIA/11 Alive News was released from the Atlanta city jail, on April 28, following her DUI arrest the previous night after a NBA playoff game between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers. The two-year 11 Alive News morning traffic reporter's court date was not immediately known. However, Duncan—whose real name is Lauren Duncan—has been suspended from duty but is scheduled to return to work on Monday, May 6, according to an 11-Alive employee who requested to remain anonymous due to not having permission to discuss the situation. Duncan, 30, arrived at Atlanta's NBC television affiliate after providing color commentary at Atlanta's top-rated "People's Station" of V-103 for, most recently, then-afternoon drive host Ryan Cameron, and earlier, Frank Ski and Wanda Smith. The native Atlantan is also a sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawks, and was leaving the Buckhead Bottle and Bistro eatery, after the game, when she was stopped in her silver Mercedes Benz by a Georgia State Patrol officer, on Piedmont Road, NE, for reckless driving in which, according to the incident report, she "narrowly missed striking another vehicle ... at a high rate of speed." Duncan's eyes were "watery" and "bloodshot," according to the police report, as well as she possessed "an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her mouth." Formal charges against Duncan were DUI, registering .099, and reckless driving. In a statement posted on the 11Alive website two weeks ago, Duncan indicated, "I am greatly embarrassed for my actions (on the early morning of April 28). I have been reminded—in a very difficult way—that any amount of alcohol can impair us. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize to my fans, our community and my 11 Alive family." Ellen Crooke, vice president-news director of 11 Alive, did not respond to a reporter's phone call for comment by presstime.