Democrat Samba Baldeh is the First Muslim Elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature


Voters in Madison have elected the first Muslim to the Wisconsin Legislature. Democrat Samba Baldeh currently represents Madison’s 17th District on the Common Council. He has served in his role since 2015.

Baldeh defeated Republican Samuel Anderson by a vote of 30,068 to 7,649. He will represent the residents of Wisconsin’s 48th District in the State Assembly.

Baldeh is an immigrant of Gambia.

He “brings a different perspective to the table, using his experiences to tackle issues of unemployment, human rights, and criminal justice reform,” according to Muslim Advocates.

“I will bring together a diverse group of individuals and communities and encourage all to share their perspectives,” Baldeh said on his campaign website. “I will listen to these conversations and reflect what I’ve learned in my work as their representative.”

He works as an IT Project Manager at American Family Insurance and said he has attained the American dream.

Baldeh succeeds Rep. Melissa Sargent, who was elected to the state Senate. He will begin his term in the state Assembly in January 2021.

This Young, Black, Woman Scientist from NC Leads Efforts to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine

Raleigh News & Observer

As a teenager growing up in Hillsborough, North Carolina, Kizzmekia Corbett had never seen a Black scientist before. Then she walked into a lab at UNC-Chapel Hill one summer, met Albert Russell, a Ph.D. student, and for the first time believed she could be one.

Now, at 34, Corbett is the scientific lead for the government’s search for a coronavirus vaccine at the National Institutes of Health.

“It made all the difference, I’m probably here because of that,” Corbett said. “Just knowing that it was possible.”

She’s become that example that she never saw and is now an assurance to other inquisitive, smart girls with an interest in science that anything is possible.

Corbett is a young, Black woman in a sea of older, white men in suits and lab coats. She’s making appearances on national TV as a scientific expert, briefing President Donald Trump about potential COVID-19 vaccines and working on the front lines to find a way to stop this pandemic.

Corbett is viral immunologist and a research fellow in Graham’s lab and leads the team that has been working on coronaviruses for the past five years. She has been heading the basic research and analyzing the pre-clinical data that’s been fundamental for developing and testing a vaccine for COVID-19.

Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway Selects Reuben Sanon as Deputy Mayor

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway chose Reuben Sanon to join her staff as deputy mayor.

Sanon, who began his new post on Nov. 2, served as the communications and diversity strategist in the City of Sun Prairie, working closely with neighborhood navigators to engage and empower underserved communities. Previously, he served as a program director at the Morgridge Center for Public Service, pairing students with community organizations, creating, managing and maintaining relationships with 90+ community partner organizations across Dane County and presenting at state and national conferences on civic engagement best practices.

“Reuben will be a great addition to Team City,” said Mayor Rhodes Conway. “I really like his enthusiasm, background, experiences, and love of Madison. I know he will strengthen our resident outreach and engagement efforts to the benefit of the whole City.”

Sanon attended West High School, and has lived in New York, Pennsylvania, and West Africa.

He speaks French and Portuguese.

NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps to Become 1st Black Woman to Join International Space Station Crew

NASA has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory. The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

The spaceflight will be the first for Epps, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class. 

NASA assigned Williams and Cassada to the Starliner-1 mission in August 2018. The spaceflight will be the first for Cassada and third for Williams, who spent long-duration stays aboard the space station on Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

Gospel Legend Bishop Rance Allen
Dies at Age 71


Gospel music star Bishop Rance Allen transitioned on Oct. 31 at the age 71.

“While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” said Allen’s wife of 49 years, Ellen Allen, and his manager, Toby Jackson, in a joint statement posted on Facebook.

The world-renowned gospel singer and minister, known for the gospel hit “Something About the Name Jesus,” formed The Rance Allen Group with his brothers Tom and Steve in 1969, according to the group’s website.

After being ordained in 1978, Rance Allen served more than six years as an associate pastor of Holiness Temple Church of God In Christ (COGIC) in Monroe, Michigan. Allen also served as a pastor at the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in Toledo, Ohio.

“Bishop Allen’s unique vocal ministry was an indispensable sound within the Church of God in Christ and Christendom. His gift transcended the boundaries of musical genre as he remained a sought after personality called to perform on global venues,” Bishop Robert G. Rudolph Jr. of COGIC said in a statement.

“During this time of uncertainty, we request the continued prayers as well as acts of emotional and spiritual support for the family.”

Wisconsin Partnership Program Announces $6 Million in Community Impact Grant Awards
to Health Equity Initiatives

The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has announced its 2020 Community Impact Grant awards for initiatives that aim to advance health equity and improve health and well-being throughout Wisconsin.

Grants of $1 million each, over five years, support community-academic partnerships designed to improve health outcomes by addressing the social determinants that influence health and well-being over the course of a lifetime.

“The award recipients address issues that are key to our societal well-being: health disparities, including those directly worsened by COVID-19, and the impact of racism on health,” said Amy Kind, MD, Ph.D., chair of Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee. “By addressing the building blocks of health—including social connection, employment, economic stability and access to care—these initiatives have the potential to forge new and innovative paths that dismantle barriers to achieving health.”

The grants were awarded by the Oversight and Advisory Committee, following a multi-stage competitive application and review process. The recipients are:

  • YWCA Madison and Wisconsin Department of Corrections: Building Tech Skills, Opportunities, Health and Wellness for Returning Citizens
  • Rebalanced Life Wellness Association and the Urban League of Greater Madison: Black Men’s Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness: Accelerating Health Equity for Black Women in Wisconsin
  • Economic Justice Institute, Inc. (UW-Madison Law School), Legal Interventions for Transforming Wisconsin (LIFT Wisconsin) (LIFT Racine) (LIFT Dane): Advancing Health Equity Through Legal Interventions for Low-Income Wisconsinites
  • McFarland School District: Supporting Social Emotional Health in K-12 African American Students
  • Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program: Addressing Stressors, Preventing Farmer Suicide: Social Connectedness and Health

Women of the Year: Lashana Lynch on Making History as the First Black Female 007

Harper’s BAZAAR

When any Jamaican you know says “Let’s talk the things”, sit down, because they’re going to tell it exactly like it is. Today, on a still Saturday morning in August, Lashana Lynch is doing precisely that, chatting warmly and directly about her latest – and surely career-defining – role in No Time to Die, the Bond franchise’s 25th release, in which she stars as Nomi, the secret agent who inherits the 007 title while Bond himself is in exile. 

She responds thoughtfully to each of my questions, getting right to the heart of the matter. “While we’re not being hijacked or muted,” she says, “when we have the opportunity to talk, I’d always rather speak to you as though it could be the last time we get to say these things.”

An instinctual and deliberate artist, she is focused on the true story of the Black woman, on communicating her honestly and with purpose. We saw this in her nuanced, solid performance as the single mother and pilot Maria Rambeau in last year’s Captain Marvel, in which she successfully stretched the bounds of what a hero is meant to be, and we will see it again in her outing as the first ever female 007.

Initially, when the Bond opportunity came about, Lynch had reservations about joining another franchise – about getting lost “behind the man”, as she puts it – but on speaking with the producer Barbara Broccoli and the director Cary Joji Fukunaga, she understood that their intentions ran alongside hers.

“A character that is too slick, a cast-iron figure? That’s completely against what I stand for,” says Lynch. ‘I didn’t want to waste an opportunity when it came to what Nomi might represent. I searched for at least one moment in the script where Black audience members would nod their heads, tutting at the reality but glad to see their real life represented. In every project I am part of, no matter the budget or genre, the Black experience that I’m presenting needs to be 100 percent authentic.”

No Time to Die was scheduled for release in April 2020, but was postponed worldwide twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now scheduled for release on April 2, 2021.

Miami Renames Street to Remember Trayvon Martin

Before the end of the year, the drive to a high school that Trayvon Martin attended should include a reminder of his name.

Miami-Dade commissioners  approved adding Martin’s name to the part of Northeast 16th Avenue that leads to Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, where Martin was in 11th grade when he was fatally shot in 2012 while on a visit with his father in Sanford. He was 17, unarmed, and walking back from a convenience store with candy, and shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Martin’s death sparked a nationwide movement for racial justice, under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.”

It pushed Martin’s mother into politics. Sybrina Fulton campaigned with Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, and in August came within fewer than 350 votes of beating Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert for the District 1 seat on the County Commission.

Martin became a national symbol of the suspicions and racial profiling that can follow Black boys and young men when they’re walking alone at night. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter after claiming self defense in the incident.

The motion approved unanimously by commissioners without discussion includes a focus on Martin’s life as a teenager in the Miami Gardens area, where he lived with Fulton.

Who is Wilton Gregory? Archbishop Who Has Spoken Out Against Racial Injustice Becomes First African American Cardinal

By Newsweek

Washington, D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory was named a cardinal by Pope Francis on Oct. 25 and will be the first African American to be hold the position.

The 72-year-old was one of 13 men who will be elevated to the cardinal’s rank, Francis said in a surprise announcement from his window above St. Peter’s Square. They will be installed in a ceremony on Nov. 28.

In a statement to the Catholic Standard following the announcement, Archbishop Gregory said: “With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church.”

Archbishop Gregory has spoken out against racial injustice, saying the nation was at a “pivotal juncture” in the fight against it. As protests against racism and police brutality erupted over the summer, triggered by the death of George Floyd, he said that it revealed “the virus of racism among us once again even as we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.”

He also urged church leaders to work to improve race relations.

“Ours is the task and the privilege of advancing the goals that were so eloquently expressed 57 years ago by such distinguished voices on that day,” he said during a Mass commemorating the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington in August. “Men and women, young and old, people of every racial and ethnic background are needed in this effort.”

Big Ten’s First All-Black Officiating Crew Works Gophers/Michigan Game

The officials selected for the Gophers-Michigan game on Oct. 24 made history as the first all-Black officiating crew for a Power Five football game, according to the Big Ten.

The crew consisted of 11 men and one woman with Larry Smith (referee), Edward Feaster (umpire), William McKoy (head line judge), Dorsey Skinner (line judge), Robert Smith Jr. (back judge), Lamont Smith (field judge), Lashell Nelson (side judge), Gregory Nelson (center judge), Calvin Diggs (alternate), James Robinson (replay official), Terry Young (communicator) and Darrel Leftwich (timer).

“The principles of equality and equity are very important to me personally and to the Big Ten Conference,” Warren said in a statement. “Big Ten football has been around since 1896, but tonight marks the first time that an all-African American football officiating crew has led a game. It is a special opening weekend for Big Ten football and we are honored by all 14 of our member institutions and their student-led social justice initiatives, as well as our conference-wide ‘United As One’ campaign.”

Robert Smith Jr. is a former Iowa receiver who played for Hayden Fry from 1983 to ’86. Smith was an official in two BCS national playoff games.

Feaster also worked during the 2017 and 2018 national championship games. Nelson was one of the first women to officiate a Canadian Football League game. Skinner does games with the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL.

Warren launched the “United As One” social justice campaign on Oct. 23, which included all 14 Big Ten football teams sharing different messages with patches and helmet decals to raise awareness for better racial equality and inclusion.