Stacey Abrams Says She’s ‘Ready to Get to Work’


Ms. Abrams secured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, she spoke to The New York Times about what’s next.

Image
Stacey Abrams spoke after winning the Democratic primary at her primary election night watch party in Atlanta on Tuesday.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

Stacey Abrams is flying high.

The former Georgia state legislator secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor Tuesday evening, making her the first black woman in the United States to secure a major party’s nomination for governor.

Ms. Abrams’s triumph has been hailed as a potentially transformative moment for a party that is still searching for its soul in the era of President Trump, but she still has a difficult road to securing a general election victory in a deeply conservative state. Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2003.

On Wednesday morning, just hours after her victory party in downtown Atlanta, Ms. Abrams spoke to The New York Times about her win, her vision for the state, what it means to be a “progressive” in Trump’s America, and her love of romance novels.

Some responses have been edited and condensed.

There’s obviously a historic aspect to this. You’re the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major party. How does the weight of that history feel?

I am humbled by the opportunity to, you know, sort of tile this ground for folks. But I’m also excited about what it means for everyone who has yet to see themselves reflected in leadership in America. And my goal is to make certain everyone has a seat at the table and that folks can see themselves and their values reflected in our government.

Much has been made about how this primary was a bellwether for the current state of the Democratic Party. What do you think your win says about where Democrats are right now?

I think it says that we are a unified party. I was incredibly grateful to be endorsed by Secretary Clinton, by Senator Sanders, and by Valerie Jarrett, who worked for President Obama as a senior adviser. We were able, in this campaign, to bring together every facet of the Democratic Party.

But more importantly, we were able to turn out voters at an unprecedented level in a midterm because we did the work on the ground. We invested in talking to voters and it showed.

There is still an uphill battle for a Democrat to win Georgia’s governor’s race. How can you be successful in November?

By doing at a larger scale what we did in this primary. We won across the state of Georgia. We won in areas that are very disparate and different from one another. But what unified these people was the belief that we need a leader who will invest in education, who will invest in small businesses, and will invest in expanding Medicaid. And I think those values will resonate.

We just have to make certain that more and more Georgians hear it — and that’s why we run the kind of campaign we run. We win when we talk to our voters, when we talk to all Georgians, and we give them a choice. And we’re going to make certain they have a very clear choice, with bold and detailed plans to know what’s at stake, and what’s available if we win this election in November — I mean, when we win in November.

If you could change one thing about Georgia, what would it be?

I would expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state. It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just I’m deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.

Read more about Tuesday night’s primary elections

There’s a whole bunch of people across the country who are about to be introduced to you for the first time. What do you want them to know about you?

Abrams: I’m the daughter of a college librarian and a shipyard worker who later became Methodist ministers, and they raised me to believe you fight for what you think is right. I’m someone who has done that — as a business leader, as a political leader and as a civic leader, and I’m ready to get to work. And on the side, I wrote romance novels.

What does being a progressive mean to you? And what’s your vision of a progressive Georgia?

Abrams: Progressive means that we want to make certain that we continue to advance opportunities, that every Georgian has the freedom and opportunity to thrive. And to me, that means working hard within our party to get good things done. But it also means being able to work across the aisle to ensure that the best results happen for everyone. I do not think that it means anything less than wanting progress for our people. And that’s what I’m working towards.

Stacey Abrams Says She’s ‘Ready to Get to Work’


Ms. Abrams secured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, she spoke to The New York Times about what’s next.

Image
Stacey Abrams spoke after winning the Democratic primary at her primary election night watch party in Atlanta on Tuesday.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

Stacey Abrams is flying high.

The former Georgia state legislator secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor Tuesday evening, making her the first black woman in the United States to secure a major party’s nomination for governor.

Ms. Abrams’s triumph has been hailed as a potentially transformative moment for a party that is still searching for its soul in the era of President Trump, but she still has a difficult road to securing a general election victory in a deeply conservative state. Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2003.

On Wednesday morning, just hours after her victory party in downtown Atlanta, Ms. Abrams spoke to The New York Times about her win, her vision for the state, what it means to be a “progressive” in Trump’s America, and her love of romance novels.

Some responses have been edited and condensed.

There’s obviously a historic aspect to this. You’re the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major party. How does the weight of that history feel?

I am humbled by the opportunity to, you know, sort of tile this ground for folks. But I’m also excited about what it means for everyone who has yet to see themselves reflected in leadership in America. And my goal is to make certain everyone has a seat at the table and that folks can see themselves and their values reflected in our government.

Much has been made about how this primary was a bellwether for the current state of the Democratic Party. What do you think your win says about where Democrats are right now?

I think it says that we are a unified party. I was incredibly grateful to be endorsed by Secretary Clinton, by Senator Sanders, and by Valerie Jarrett, who worked for President Obama as a senior adviser. We were able, in this campaign, to bring together every facet of the Democratic Party.

But more importantly, we were able to turn out voters at an unprecedented level in a midterm because we did the work on the ground. We invested in talking to voters and it showed.

There is still an uphill battle for a Democrat to win Georgia’s governor’s race. How can you be successful in November?

By doing at a larger scale what we did in this primary. We won across the state of Georgia. We won in areas that are very disparate and different from one another. But what unified these people was the belief that we need a leader who will invest in education, who will invest in small businesses, and will invest in expanding Medicaid. And I think those values will resonate.

We just have to make certain that more and more Georgians hear it — and that’s why we run the kind of campaign we run. We win when we talk to our voters, when we talk to all Georgians, and we give them a choice. And we’re going to make certain they have a very clear choice, with bold and detailed plans to know what’s at stake, and what’s available if we win this election in November — I mean, when we win in November.

If you could change one thing about Georgia, what would it be?

I would expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state. It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just I’m deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.

Read more about Tuesday night’s primary elections

There’s a whole bunch of people across the country who are about to be introduced to you for the first time. What do you want them to know about you?

Abrams: I’m the daughter of a college librarian and a shipyard worker who later became Methodist ministers, and they raised me to believe you fight for what you think is right. I’m someone who has done that — as a business leader, as a political leader and as a civic leader, and I’m ready to get to work. And on the side, I wrote romance novels.

What does being a progressive mean to you? And what’s your vision of a progressive Georgia?

Abrams: Progressive means that we want to make certain that we continue to advance opportunities, that every Georgian has the freedom and opportunity to thrive. And to me, that means working hard within our party to get good things done. But it also means being able to work across the aisle to ensure that the best results happen for everyone. I do not think that it means anything less than wanting progress for our people. And that’s what I’m working towards.

Camille Cosby Compares Husband’s Conviction to Lynching


Photo

Bill and Camille Cosby during the trial in April. She blamed the media for his guilty verdict and called for an investigation of prosecutors.

Credit
Tracie Van Auken/EPA, via Shutterstock

Camille Cosby, the wife of the disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, disparaged the media, Mr. Cosby’s accusers and his prosecutors in a caustic statement released Thursday, her first public comments since Mr. Cosby was convicted of sexual assault last week. She called for a criminal investigation of the Montgomery County district attorney and repeatedly suggested that Mr. Cosby was targeted because of his race.

In a three-page release, Mrs. Cosby explicitly blamed the media for Mr. Cosby’s fate in court, citing what she called a “frenzied, relentless demonization of him and unquestioning acceptance of accusers’ allegations without any attendant proof.” She went on to say, “Bill Cosby was labeled as guilty because the media and accusers said so.”

Once again, Mr. Cosby was compared to Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 after being falsely accused of leering at a white woman. Last week, Mr. Cosby’s publicist, Ebonee Benson, went on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and likened Mr. Cosby to Till.

This time, it was Mrs. Cosby.

“Since when are all accusers truthful? History disproves that,” she said in her statement, adding, “Emmett Till’s accuser immediately comes to mind.” Mrs. Cosby also cited Darryl Hunt, an African-American who wrongfully served 19 years in prison after being convicted of a 1984 murder. He was released in 2004, years after DNA evidence cleared him of the crime.

She also accused Andrea Constand, whose sexual assault complaint led to the conviction, of perjury, saying that her testimony was filled with “innumerable, dishonest contradictions.”

A lawyer for Ms. Constand, Dolores M. Troiani, said in a statement, “Twelve honorable people — a jury of Cosby’s peers — have spoken. There’s nothing else to say.”

Continue reading the main story

Officers’ Names Remain Secret Weeks After Fatal Shooting of a Black Man in California


He said the church was filled on Friday with friends and family members who said their final goodbyes to Mr. Yarber — a father of three whose friends called him Butchie — and Barstow residents who called for justice.

“A lot of people talked about the need for ongoing protests and marches — a lot more than I would expect at a funeral,” Mr. Merritt said.

In a statement on Monday, the Police Department said officers responded to a report of a reckless driver on March 18 and Mr. Yarber fled when officers tried unsuccessfully to stop him. The statement said that further investigation showed that the car, a blue Hyundai, was stolen.

So when someone called to report a “suspicious vehicle” — the black Mustang — in a Walmart parking lot on April 5 and provided a license plate number, officers saw that it was registered to someone whose last name was Yarber and, once on the scene, recognized the driver, the statement said.

Officers told Mr. Yarber to get out but he did not, the statement said, adding that he “continued to accelerate his vehicle forward and in reverse toward the officers, almost hitting one officer” before striking the rear of another patrol car occupied by an officer.

The statement added, “The officers feared for their safety and the safety of others and an officer-involved shooting occurred.”

Photo

Mourners at the funeral for Mr. Yarber.

Credit
James Tensuan for The New York Times

The car was riddled with bullets. Mr. Yarber was killed and one of his three passengers was shot and hospitalized. She has since been released.

It all happened very quickly, said Marlon Hawkins, 41, who was in the front seat of the car at the time of the shooting.

He said they had just pulled in when several police cars arrived, boxing them in. There was a lot of yelling and then a lot of gunfire.

Mr. Hawkins said he jumped out of the car and onto the ground. He suffered injuries and was taken to the hospital for a few hours. He got a phone call and learned that Mr. Yarber was dead.

“I was just devastated,” Mr. Hawkins said. “It was just surreal. It was happening so fast, I couldn’t believe it. I was sick.”

Mr. Merritt has repeatedly called on the authorities to release the officers’ names.

Photo

Flowers and candles were left in Mr. Yarber’s memory at a Walmart parking lot in Barstow, Calif.

Credit
James Tensuan for The New York Times

In its statement, the Barstow police said they were “precluded by state law from providing or sharing any information related to the personnel records of the involved officers.”

The department said in its statement that the officers were wearing body cameras and that the footage was turned over to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. It has not been released publicly.

“This case is important because it really begins to explore the idea that law enforcement is above the law,” Mr. Merritt said.

Citing a California Supreme Court decision, Mr. Merritt argued that in the case of an officer-involved shooting, police departments that want to withhold names must show clear evidence that there would be a particular threat to officers involved if their names were made public.

“They’ve decided that they would go into a black box. It’s almost as if they’re hiding, waiting for everybody to go away,” he said. “We’re not going to go away.”

Continue reading the main story

Police’s Shifting Account of Black Man’s Death Raises Questions in Savannah


And Savannah — the elegant, troubled jewel of the Georgia coast — found itself confronting, yet again, the question of whether its police force can be trusted.

The question has dominated the public conversation in many American cities at a time when technology can make the most obscure police encounter combustible. But it comes at a particularly sensitive moment for Savannah — a city of 147,000 people famous for its fine old buildings and Southern charm, but burdened with an outsize violent crime problem, a 25 percent poverty rate, and a police force stained by the 2014 conviction of its former chief, Willie Lovett, on federal extortion, gambling and obstruction charges.

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A photo of Mr. Boyd at his mother’s home.

Credit
Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Mr. Lovett’s well-regarded replacement, Joseph Lumpkin, reinstilled some public confidence in the police force. But Mr. Lumpkin moved to a new job in January, and the city is on a nationwide hunt for a new police chief.

Alicia Blakely, an activist with the Savannah chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said that if evidence of a cover-up emerges in the Boyd case, “just imagine — if that happened, that means the trust is completely out of the window.”

Savannah has long been a city starkly divided between rich and poor, black and white. Its growing success as a magnet for tourists, wealthy retirees and film and television productions has thrown its pervasive problems into even sharper relief.

Its restaurants are more sophisticated, its airport has expanded to accommodate more visitors — “The numbers are just exploding,” Mayor Eddie DeLoach says — and its historic downtown, which once evinced a tatty charm, has been burnished to a high gloss.

In recent years, the Savannah metropolitan area has also suffered some of the highest murder rates in the United States. There were 50 homicides in Savannah in 2016; in proportion to its population, that was more than twice the rate of metropolitan Atlanta. The figure fell to 35 last year, which city officials cite as a sign of progress.

“We think we’ve turned the corner,” the city manager, Rob Hernandez, said, “and the data is supporting that.”

Black mistrust of the Savannah police has deep roots — some of them typical for a Deep South city, some of them complicated (Mr. Lovett was the city’s first black chief), and some stemming from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a crack cocaine boss named Ricky Jivens Jr., who was black, led a criminal gang that was linked to about 20 killings before his eventual arrest.

Photo

Savannah is a city burdened by an outsize violent crime problem, a 25 percent poverty rate, and a police force stained by the 2014 conviction of its former chief.

Credit
Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Geoffrey A. Alls, 35, a black lawyer who was raised in the city, said that from that point on, the disparate treatment of blacks by the police became even more pronounced.

“Bad experiences with police as a black man growing up in Savannah are somewhat of a rite of passage,” he said.

Ms. Smiley, 36, said that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation showed her and other family members the body-camera video a few days after Mr. Boyd was shot. That day, she said, a state detective told her that her son had been armed, and had “wanted to die.”

Ms. Smiley said the video shows Mr. Boyd taking a few steps out of his front door, then falling as the officers shoot. But she and others who have seen the video said they could not make out any weapon in Mr. Boyd’s hands.

“I said, ‘This is the crap y’all brought me up here to see?’ ” Ms. Smiley recalled in a recent interview. Her anger turned to tears. “They didn’t have to kill my son,” she said.

The Chatham County district attorney, Meg Heap, who is white, calls that description of the video “inaccurate,” and said that a grand jury will rely on the results of the bureau’s investigation to determine whether charges are warranted against the officers.

Police and city officials, citing the continuing investigation, declined to comment.

Mr. Boyd’s family said he had dreamed of joining the Marines — an idea his mother disapproved of — or of becoming a police detective. Records show that he was arrested in November 2016 for fleeing the police after riding in a stolen truck with a friend. At the time, Mr. Boyd told the police he did not know the truck was stolen. So an officer asked him why he ran.

Photo

Ms. Smiley said that on the day of the shooting, a detective told her that her son had been armed and had “wanted to die.”

Credit
Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

“He began explaining how he runs from the police every time the police make a stop on him, because you know something is wrong and that is how he was trained,” the officer wrote in a report.

Mr. Boyd would soon be caught up in, and dashed by, Savannah’s vicious cycles of violence.

Officers went to his house on the morning of Jan. 23 to arrest him on suspicion of murdering a 24-year-old man named Balil Whitfield, who had been found shot and bleeding in the front seat of a Hyundai Accent two days before.

Violence struck even at Mr. Boyd’s funeral, when his 12-year-old cousin, John Cooksey Jr., was fatally shot. Mr. Boyd’s family has theories about the motive for this slaying, but did not wish to share them publicly.

A 15-year-old was eventually arrested in connection with that killing.

Mr. Boyd’s family, meanwhile, has hired a local civil rights lawyer, William R. Claiborne, 40, a white Atlanta native who has emerged as a chief critic of Savannah’s law enforcement culture. There are good officers on the force, Mr. Claiborne said, but over all, he believes the department has not fully reformed or scrubbed its ranks of bad actors.

“Ethical and honest policing protects everyone,” he said. “We haven’t had that historically, and I don’t think we have that now.”

In 2016, Mr. Claiborne won a settlement from the city over a case in which a white officer used a stun gun on a black man whom the police had misidentified while executing a warrant. In another stun-gun case, Mr. Claiborne and other lawyers are representing the family of Matthew Ajibade, a mentally ill black man who died after a violent confrontation with Chatham County sheriff’s deputies at a local jail. Their lawsuit in federal court alleges that Mr. Ajibade, 21, was shocked four times with the device while strapped to a restraint chair, and then was denied medical attention.

Mr. Claiborne has also filed a state civil racketeering lawsuit that names Mr. Lovett and others and alleges a “takeover” of the police department by corrupt officers who controlled a drug distribution network. (The suit was filed before the department split into separate city and county departments earlier this year.).

The suit describes a continuum of corruption, arguing that the network included members of a police-controlled cocaine smuggling ring who had evaded punishment during a 1990s-era federal probe that led to the arrest of 11 officers.

Earlier this month, Mr. Claiborne released a video on behalf of Mr. Boyd’s family in which he introduces the neighbor’s photo. It appears to show a pistol lying on the ground near a pine tree, more than 40 feet from the front door. Mr. Claiborne believes it is the same BB pistol shown in photos released by the state bureau of investigation.

Mr. Claiborne said the family members who watched the police body-camera video did not see Mr. Boyd make any throwing motion before he was shot. “So how does the gun that he supposedly had move from A to B?” he said.

Ms. Smiley said that a Savannah detective has told her that the police do not believe her son killed Balil Whitfield.

Mr. Claiborne said he is frustrated that after three months, the authorities have released the name of only one officer involved in the raid — a sergeant who was shot that morning, apparently by friendly fire.

Mr. DeLoach, the mayor, is a white conservative who defeated a black incumbent in 2015 with a campaign focused squarely on fighting crime. In an interview, he praised the Police Department’s progress, noting that its staffing is now above full strength after being short more than 100 officers a few years ago. Other city officials pointed out that the department has overhauled its internal affairs division, parted ways with problem officers and raised its success rate in solving homicides to 80 percent in 2017, from 54 percent in 2015 — evidence, they say, that public trust is on the rise.

But skepticism lingers about the Boyd shooting. Lloyd A. Johnson, a former Maryland prosecutor and president of a local youth support group, is among the black Savannah residents who want the police to release the video that Mr. Boyd’s family was shown. “If they feel they didn’t show excessive force, then let’s look at the tape,” he said.

At the council meeting, a tearful Ms. Smiley asked the members to say whether they supported releasing the video. But the city attorney advised them not to speak, and said that the district attorney had said that the video would not be released while it was under investigation by the grand jury.

“And ma’am,” the mayor said at one point. “We are truly sorry.”

Continue reading the main story

In Cuba’s Change of Leadership, More Black Officials in Power


While official statistics reflect that less than 10 percent of the population is black, in reality, most estimates put the number far higher.

The Cuban government under the Castros has historically been viewed as one made up mainly of white men, especially those of advanced age. Although it has generally had at least one Afro-Cuban in a high-ranking position, cynics dismissed them as symbolic figures.

Although skeptics doubt that too much will change to address the disparities faced by many black people in Cuba, even some of the government’s harshest critics acknowledged that the diversity shift was an important development.

“Yes, it has great significance,” said Ramón Colas, a black anti-Castro activist who sought political asylum in 2001 and now lives in Mississippi. “The Cuban revolution has historically been white, and seen from the outside as a revolution by white men, where black people were part of the crowd, spectators who were silent or applauded, but never participated.”

Mr. Colas said the election, a process in which Mr. Castro and the Communist Party had full control, showed that the former Cuban leader has “big ears” and was willing to listen to the outcry from black civic and arts organizations. But he noted it would be even more noteworthy if the three black people on the council used their positions to push for racial equality.

Photo

Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, center, at the National Assembly in Havana last week.

Credit
Adalberto Roque/Agence France-Presse, via Associated Press

“Wouldn’t it be great if they used those positions to say, ‘As a black Cuban, I am against injustice against black people in Cuba?’ ” he said. “I doubt that they can do that. They are not allowed. Fidel declared that racism is a problem that ended.”

If anything, Raúl Castro’s move to shift high-ranking positions to black leaders was an acknowledgment that racism and discrimination had not, in fact, been solved by the revolution.

In his remarks on Thursday, Mr. Castro said the struggle to move beyond percentages continued.

“We still have the battle of proportions, not just in numerical aspects, but qualitative — in decision-making slots,” he said. “Three women were elected vice president of the Council of State, two of them black — not only for being black, but for their virtues and qualities.”

While inequality persists in the country, the Castro revolution did make important strides for black people.

Before the revolution, social stratification was profound, with black Cubans open to far less opportunity and enduring far more discrimination than their lighter-skinned fellow citizens. When Fidel Castro came to power after the revolution, one of his early edicts essentially sought an end to racism.

The result was that systemic racism as it exists in the Americas is far less present in Cuba, and social and educational opportunities generally more present for black Cubans — even those living far from the capital. For many of the revolution’s proponents, it was one of the major achievements at a time when the United States was still requiring black people to drink from separate water fountains.

Alejandro de la Fuente, a Harvard University Cuba studies professor who has written extensively on Afro-Cubans, said inequality diminished in several ways. His research showed, for example, that in the 1980s, the life expectancy gap between black and white people was better in Cuba than in Brazil or the United States.

Also, the number of black Cubans who attended college was close to the number of white Cubans, he found, whereas in the United States, twice as many white people as African-Americans attended university.

But the improvements, brought on by socialized education, were offset by the economic nose-dive Afro-Cubans faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. More Cubans started living on cash remittances sent from the United States. And almost all the Cubans sending money from the United States were white.

Mr. de la Fuente noted that both of the black women named to the council, Inés María Chapman Waugh and Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia, are engineers from eastern Cuba, which makes them an example of the kind of educational mobility possible for black women in the country. Mr. de la Fuente said their promotions were largely symbolic, but still important.

“Even if this was window-dressing, it would mean they feel the need to dress the window in a certain color, and that is something one would not have said 30 years ago,” Mr. de la Fuente said.

Photo

Waiting for the carriage carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in central Santiago de Cuba.

Credit
Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Only 9 percent of Cubans identified themselves as black in the 2012 census, a sign that most Cubans don’t see benefits to self-identifying as Afro-Cuban, he said. Most estimates have the number of black people in Cuba much higher.

“If you go by the one-drop rule, like you have in the United States, Cuba is like 90 percent black,” Mr. Colas said with a laugh.

Katrin Hansing, a professor at Baruch College in New York who is studying racial inequality in Cuba, said the presence of more black people on the council was likely to be met with a collective shrug on the island. The economic disparities have grown so stark, she said, that more shantytowns are popping up on the outskirts of big cities, and people of color largely populate them.

“It won’t change their socioeconomically difficult lives,” Ms. Hansing said. “The Communist Party will not change because there are three more black people at the top.”

In Cuba, many people interviewed agreed, and some did not even know the changes had been made.

In the neighborhood of La Corea, marooned on the outskirts of Havana, most people had more pressing concerns to ponder than the racial balance of the nation’s top officials. Heaps of trash were piled on street corners, covered in thick swarms of flies. A water leak from a pipe beneath the sidewalk flowed unchecked, leaving pools and summoning mosquitoes.

The neighborhood contrasts sharply with the proud, if battered, colonial structures of Old Havana or the resplendent mansions of Vedado or Miramar. Homes are slapped together with rusty shards of corrugated metal or raw cinder block and cement. The streets are so worn in parts they are simply dirt.

In the largely black neighborhood, residents were somewhat divided on the meaning of the new racial composition of the government. Manuel Garro Gómez, 65, seemed to take the official line on the matter. “Cuba says there is no discrimination and that’s largely how it is,” he said. “Before the revolution, there was absolutely no relation between black people and whites. Today we mix easily.”

Down the street, Yasmani Santo, 30, once informed about the change, said it was a decent move.

“This reflects the population a bit more, which I appreciate,” he said. “But I’m not sure it will change anything.” Referring to the neighborhood’s dilapidation, he said: “People come and make promises to fix these things and nothing happens. Let’s see if this new president does anything.”

Abraham Jiménez Enoa, a writer and director at El Estornudo magazine in Havana, said racism was a part of daily life for black Cubans, no matter what the state says. When he has dated white women, his friends offered snide remarks that he was “trying to get ahead.”

He said the police were more likely to stop a black person, especially one who is carrying things like towels or sheets, which are items often pilfered from hotels by Cubans without money to buy their own.

In Old Havana on Thursday, Josué Soto del Sol, 10, smiled and then shrugged when he heard about the appointments of the three black leaders. “It’s good,” he said. “We are all black in Cuba.”

Continue reading the main story

In Cuba’s Change of Leadership, More Black Officials in Power


While official statistics reflect that less than 10 percent of the population is black, in reality, most estimates put the number far higher.

The Cuban government under the Castros has historically been viewed as one made up mainly of white men, especially those of advanced age. Although it has generally had at least one Afro-Cuban in a high-ranking position, cynics dismissed them as symbolic figures.

Although skeptics doubt that too much will change to address the disparities faced by many black people in Cuba, even some of the government’s harshest critics acknowledged that the diversity shift was an important development.

“Yes, it has great significance,” said Ramón Colas, a black anti-Castro activist who sought political asylum in 2001 and now lives in Mississippi. “The Cuban revolution has historically been white, and seen from the outside as a revolution by white men, where black people were part of the crowd, spectators who were silent or applauded, but never participated.”

Mr. Colas said the election, a process in which Mr. Castro and the Communist Party had full control, showed that the former Cuban leader has “big ears” and was willing to listen to the outcry from black civic and arts organizations. But he noted it would be even more noteworthy if the three black people on the council used their positions to push for racial equality.

Photo

Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, center, at the National Assembly in Havana last week.

Credit
Adalberto Roque/Agence France-Presse, via Associated Press

“Wouldn’t it be great if they used those positions to say, ‘As a black Cuban, I am against injustice against black people in Cuba?’ ” he said. “I doubt that they can do that. They are not allowed. Fidel declared that racism is a problem that ended.”

If anything, Raúl Castro’s move to shift high-ranking positions to black leaders was an acknowledgment that racism and discrimination had not, in fact, been solved by the revolution.

In his remarks on Thursday, Mr. Castro said the struggle to move beyond percentages continued.

“We still have the battle of proportions, not just in numerical aspects, but qualitative — in decision-making slots,” he said. “Three women were elected vice president of the Council of State, two of them black — not only for being black, but for their virtues and qualities.”

While inequality persists in the country, the Castro revolution did make important strides for black people.

Before the revolution, social stratification was profound, with black Cubans open to far less opportunity and enduring far more discrimination than their lighter-skinned fellow citizens. When Fidel Castro came to power after the revolution, one of his early edicts essentially sought an end to racism.

The result was that systemic racism as it exists in the Americas is far less present in Cuba, and social and educational opportunities generally more present for black Cubans — even those living far from the capital. For many of the revolution’s proponents, it was one of the major achievements at a time when the United States was still requiring black people to drink from separate water fountains.

Alejandro de la Fuente, a Harvard University Cuba studies professor who has written extensively on Afro-Cubans, said inequality diminished in several ways. His research showed, for example, that in the 1980s, the life expectancy gap between black and white people was better in Cuba than in Brazil or the United States.

Also, the number of black Cubans who attended college was close to the number of white Cubans, he found, whereas in the United States, twice as many white people as African-Americans attended university.

But the improvements, brought on by socialized education, were offset by the economic nose-dive Afro-Cubans faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. More Cubans started living on cash remittances sent from the United States. And almost all the Cubans sending money from the United States were white.

Mr. de la Fuente noted that both of the black women named to the council, Inés María Chapman Waugh and Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia, are engineers from eastern Cuba, which makes them an example of the kind of educational mobility possible for black women in the country. Mr. de la Fuente said their promotions were largely symbolic, but still important.

“Even if this was window-dressing, it would mean they feel the need to dress the window in a certain color, and that is something one would not have said 30 years ago,” Mr. de la Fuente said.

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Waiting for the carriage carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in central Santiago de Cuba.

Credit
Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Only 9 percent of Cubans identified themselves as black in the 2012 census, a sign that most Cubans don’t see benefits to self-identifying as Afro-Cuban, he said. Most estimates have the number of black people in Cuba much higher.

“If you go by the one-drop rule, like you have in the United States, Cuba is like 90 percent black,” Mr. Colas said with a laugh.

Katrin Hansing, a professor at Baruch College in New York who is studying racial inequality in Cuba, said the presence of more black people on the council was likely to be met with a collective shrug on the island. The economic disparities have grown so stark, she said, that more shantytowns are popping up on the outskirts of big cities, and people of color largely populate them.

“It won’t change their socioeconomically difficult lives,” Ms. Hansing said. “The Communist Party will not change because there are three more black people at the top.”

In Cuba, many people interviewed agreed, and some did not even know the changes had been made.

In the neighborhood of La Corea, marooned on the outskirts of Havana, most people had more pressing concerns to ponder than the racial balance of the nation’s top officials. Heaps of trash were piled on street corners, covered in thick swarms of flies. A water leak from a pipe beneath the sidewalk flowed unchecked, leaving pools and summoning mosquitoes.

The neighborhood contrasts sharply with the proud, if battered, colonial structures of Old Havana or the resplendent mansions of Vedado or Miramar. Homes are slapped together with rusty shards of corrugated metal or raw cinder block and cement. The streets are so worn in parts they are simply dirt.

In the largely black neighborhood, residents were somewhat divided on the meaning of the new racial composition of the government. Manuel Garro Gómez, 65, seemed to take the official line on the matter. “Cuba says there is no discrimination and that’s largely how it is,” he said. “Before the revolution, there was absolutely no relation between black people and whites. Today we mix easily.”

Down the street, Yasmani Santo, 30, once informed about the change, said it was a decent move.

“This reflects the population a bit more, which I appreciate,” he said. “But I’m not sure it will change anything.” Referring to the neighborhood’s dilapidation, he said: “People come and make promises to fix these things and nothing happens. Let’s see if this new president does anything.”

Abraham Jiménez Enoa, a writer and director at El Estornudo magazine in Havana, said racism was a part of daily life for black Cubans, no matter what the state says. When he has dated white women, his friends offered snide remarks that he was “trying to get ahead.”

He said the police were more likely to stop a black person, especially one who is carrying things like towels or sheets, which are items often pilfered from hotels by Cubans without money to buy their own.

In Old Havana on Thursday, Josué Soto del Sol, 10, smiled and then shrugged when he heard about the appointments of the three black leaders. “It’s good,” he said. “We are all black in Cuba.”

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She Won the Turner Prize. Now She’s Using Her Clout to Help Others.


Ms. Himid has long championed the work of other artists. A leading figure in the British Black Art Movement of the 1980s, she organized important group exhibitions at public institutions in London.

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“Tenderness Only We Can See” (2017-2018), the title work from a recent series, carries a reference to Essex Hemphill’s poem “Between Pathos and Seduction.” A painting of a British carp, its muddy coloring transformed to exotic pink and yellow, decorates a wooden panel from inside a piano like a secret message.

Credit
Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens

The exhibition at Sérignan will present works from eight series Ms. Himid made since the ’80s: All are talking points connected to Europe’s colonial past and wealth derived from slavery. “Cotton.com,” a series of 85 painting from 2002, recalls an incident from the 1860s when mill workers in northern England refused to process cotton grown in the Confederate States. The patterned panels imagine coded communication between black slaves on American plantations and British textile workers.

As part of her participation in the forthcoming Berlin Biennale, Ms. Himid asked the organizers to translate into German texts by the African-American poet and activist Essex Hemphill, and by Maud Sulter, a British artist and writer of Ghanaian and Scottish heritage. In Sérignan, a region where more than half the voters chose Marine Le Pen from the far-right National Front in the second round of the 2017 French presidential elections, the gallery will host, at Ms. Himid’s request, a conversation between Françoise Vergès, an academic known for her work on the legacy of colonialism and slavery, and the French-Cameroonian curator Christine Eyene. (“It will be hard-hitting,” Ms. Himid said.)

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“Cotton.com,” a series of 85 paintings from 2002, recalls an incident from the 1860s when mill workers in northern England refused to process cotton grown in the Confederate States. The patterned panels imagine coded communication between black slaves on American plantations and British textile workers.

Credit
Courtesy of the artist, Firstsite and Hollybush Gardens

Ms. Eyene, artistic director of the International Biennial of Casablanca, Morocco, said in an interview that public conversations like these were important, particularly in France, where it could be difficult to discuss issues of race and the country’s colonial legacy.

Ms. Eyene recalled that while she was studying art history at the Sorbonne in the 1990s, “There were no black professionals in museums. I knew very early that there was little chance for me to get a job in a museum.” She noted that she still sees a tendency in France to favor work by black artists from outside the country over the work of French artists of color. “In France, when institutions do an African art exhibition they will look for artists based on the continent, or perhaps in other countries,” she said. “They’re not interested in bridging the gap between the diaspora and the Africans from Africa.”

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The central panel of Ms. Himid’s early work “Freedom and Change” borrows its composition from Pablo Picasso’s 1922 painting “Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race).” Early in her career, the artist was interested in political and street theater: some works from this period draw their improvised make-do energy from traditions of avant-garde performance.

Credit
Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens

Two works on show in Sérignan refer to the French context of the exhibition. “Freedom and Change” (1984) borrows its composition from a 1922 work in the Picasso Museum in Paris — “Women Running on the Beach (The Race)” — a reference that in turn recalls Picasso’s own borrowings from African art that commenced in 1907 with the painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”

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“Naming the Money” (2004) was inspired by portraits of black slave servants who were given as gifts to the king of France by the king of Spain.

Credit
Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens

“Naming The Money” (2004), a throng of 100 life-size standing figures, was inspired by portraits of black slave servants who were given as gifts to the king of France by the king of Spain. Each figure bore a sash stating their name and occupation in the court: lute player, dog handler, dancer and so forth. Lavishly dressed, they were the glamorous face of exploited black labor and exotic status symbols.

Gabi Ngcobo, the Berlin Biennale’s curator, said that it was important to look at Ms. Himid’s work in the global context of creative practices giving voice to shared history that remains hidden or untold: “It is here that black artists working in different parts of the world can find a space in which they are not marked by an otherness but rather self-determination.” This year the Biennale borrows its title from the Tina Turner anthem “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” a call for “love and compassion” that Ms. Ngcobo said was reflected in the determined but generous way Ms. Himid has worked “as an artist, curator and cultural activist: quietly, forcefully whilst reaching out to many.”

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Sheriff’s Deputy Is Fired After Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man in Houston


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Danny Ray Thomas walking toward Cameron Brewer, then a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy, moments before Mr. Thomas was shot and killed in March. He was unarmed.

Credit
via Reuters

A sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed black man who was acting erratically at a Houston intersection last month has been fired, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday.

The deputy, Cameron Brewer, who is also black, did not adhere to the department’s policy on use of force when he fatally shot Danny Ray Thomas, 34, on March 22, the agency said in a statement.

A video camera inside Mr. Brewer’s car captured part of the encounter: Mr. Thomas can be seen at an intersection with his pants around his ankles and in an altercation with another man as the deputy’s car pulls up. He can then be seen walking toward Deputy Brewer, who is yelling: “Get down, man! Get on the ground.”

The deputy was not wearing his newly issued body camera, so what happened next was not captured in the video released by the sheriff’s office. But the sound of a single gunshot could be heard, and Mr. Thomas was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Deputy Brewer, who joined the sheriff’s department in 2016, was placed on administrative duty after the shooting, pending an internal affairs investigation. In its statement on Friday, the department said that Mr. Thomas was “behaving erratically” but that he was unarmed. Although Deputy Brewer was carrying a Taser, he did not use it before shooting Mr. Thomas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has said.

“The brave men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are called upon to make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Sheriff Gonzalez said in the statement. “We hold the community’s trust as sacred, and we will continue to support our deputies with clear policies and the valuable training they need to protect the lives of all our residents.”

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Police Kill Black Man With Barrage of Bullets Outside California Walmart


“Unless you know they are actively engaging you with gunfire, its hard to justify shooting at four people, when, at best, the driver was committing the criminal act,” he continued.

Mr. Yarber, he said, “wasn’t complying — and they decided to execute him for it.”

Photo

Mr. Yarber, 26.

Credit
Family Photo

Neither a Barstow police captain nor a city spokesman returned a phone message on Wednesday night seeking comment.

In two separate news releases — one provided by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the other from the Barstow police — the authorities say that the shooting occurred around 11 a.m.

Barstow police officers had responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of the Walmart, the authorities said. They believed the driver was “a subject wanted for questioning in a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle,” one of the releases said.

When the officers got to the Walmart, they found the car, a black Mustang, in the parking lot. The car had been moving, but came to a stop in a parking spot. The officers got out of their vehicles and told the driver of the Mustang to do the same, the authorities said.

In their release, the Barstow police said Mr. Yarber first “began accelerating his vehicle in reverse, striking a police vehicle.”

“The vehicle then accelerated forward toward the officers, and then accelerated in reverse toward officers and striking another patrol vehicle,” the Barstow police said. “Afterward, an officer-involved shooting ensued.”

The video posted by Mr. King shows the shooting in real time for a total of about seven seconds. Mr. Merritt confirmed that the video is of the shooting involving Mr. Yarber.

It was not clear what happened before the recording started or after it ended. In the video, rapid gunfire can be heard as a black car appears to drive slowly in reverse.

A version of the same video that has been slowed down appears to show the car beginning to back up, just before two gunshots ring out; almost immediately after, the car appears to back into or swipe what looks like a police vehicle. (Mr. Merritt claims that the police vehicle moved into the Mustang’s path.) The gunfire continues in rapid succession.

Mr. Yarber, who Mr. Merritt said had been struck repeatedly, was pronounced dead at the scene, the authorities said. Another passenger, a woman identified by Mr. Merritt as Mariana Tafoya, was also struck by gunfire and was airlifted to a hospital, the police said. Mr. Merritt said she had been struck in the abdomen and the leg.

The two other passengers, both men, got out of the Mustang during the episode, and one of them sustained what the authorities called “minor injuries.”

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s specialized investigations division is investigating the shooting. A department spokeswoman referred questions about it to the Barstow police.

The episode occurred just weeks after the police in Sacramento fatally shot another black man, Stephon Clark. Mr. Clark’s death set off marches across that city.

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