Thurmond's Daughter Gets Tribute in S.C.

Associated Press Writer

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who revealed late last year she is the biracial daughter of late Sen. Strom Thurmond, was showered with praise from her family and others at a banquet to raise money for education.

Washington-Williams also finally met Thurmond's other children on her trip home to South Carolina, enjoying dinner and family talk Friday at the home of Strom Jr.

``It was a good visit, very fruitful,'' she said Saturday, but she brushed off more personal questions during her appearance Saturday night at historically black Allen University.

The sold-out, $50-a-person banquet turned into somewhat of a tribute to the 78-year-old retired schoolteacher, who received repeated standing ovations from the crowd of about 500. Opening speakers talked about Washington-Williams' quiet dignity and her courage in keeping such an explosive secret for so long.

Cousin Bruce Elrod hugged Washington-Williams after she arrived at the banquet and said she is continuing her father's legacy with grace.

``She's carrying Strom's torch right now, and I'll tell you Strom would be very proud of her,'' Elrod said.

Late last year Washington-Williams confirmed long-standing rumors that she was born after Thurmond, then 22, had an affair with a 16-year-old black maid who worked in his family's Edgefield home.

Thurmond, who was 100 when he died in June, never publicly acknowledged Washington-Williams as his daughter, but his family has acknowledged her claim.

Washington-Williams, who lives in Los Angeles, spoke Saturday as part of the Tom Joyner Foundation Campaign, which raises money for historically black colleges and universities.

``My father, the late Sen. Thurmond, was a great proponent of education, and now so am I,'' Washington-Williams said.

Washington-Williams came to Columbia to start a college lecture series. She is also planning the release of a book about her life to be written by William Stadiem, who has co-written biographies of Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. A movie will follow, Washington-Williams said.

Washington-Williams has said she was a teenager when she first met Thurmond and he visited her when she was at college in Orangeburg, just south of Columbia. Thurmond often gave Washington-Williams money when she hit hard times.

The former senator was once an avowed segregationist and ran for president in 1948 as a Dixiecrat on the platform of maintaining separate schools for blacks and whites. Washington-Williams said she and her father spoke little of the issue of segregation. She said she didn't go public with the identity of her father because she didn't want to hurt his career.

Washington-Williams toured Columbia on Friday, visiting the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center on the University of South Carolina campus and the South Carolina Statehouse, where a statue of her father stands.

There has been talk about adding her name to the list of Thurmond's children engraved on that monument. Thurmond had four children with his second wife, Nancy. The oldest is 31-year-old Strom Thurmond Jr.

Washington-Williams said she would be honored to be added, but she hasn't asked for it.

``I'm not pushing it,'' she said Friday. ``I'm not pushing anything, matter of fact.''

Previous Story:

Segregationist Senator had Black "Love Child"

The late Strom Thurmond, the Southern US senator who once led the charge for racial segregation, had a daughter by a black woman who once worked as the family maid.

A 78-year-old woman from Los Angeles plans to come forward soon with what she claims is incontrovertible evidence that Thurmond, who died in June at the age of 100, was her father.

Thurmond, the country's longest-serving senator, began his political career as a Southern Democrat, but broke with the Democratic party to run for the presidency on a segregationist platform in 1948. "On the question of social intermingling of the races, our people draw the line," he said.

At the time his alleged daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams was in her early 20s. Now a retired school teacher, Ms Washington-Williams says she has financial receipts, cashiers' checks and personal notes that prove Thurmond recognized the paternity, including a thank you note for a Father's Day card.

Her lawyer, Frank Wheaton, says she revealed her identity "at the urging and encouragement of her children" to establish her family history.

"I did not want anybody to know I had an illegitimate father," Ms Washington-Williams told the Washington Post. "My children convinced me to tell the truth. I want to finally answer all of these questions that have been following me for 50 or 60 years."

Mr Wheaton says she waited until Thurmond, who later switched to the Republican party, had died before coming forward. "She didn't want to do anything to damage or potentially damage his political career or his family," he said.

Thurmond's estate, which has been valued at around $200,000 is currently being settled, but Mr Wheaton insisted this had no bearing on the timing of the revelations.

"Let's be emphatically clear: We are not looking for money. We are merely seeking closure by way of the truth for Essie Mae Washington-Williams, so her children have an opportunity to know from where they come; whether those ancestors are black or white matters not. It is part of our American history."

Thurmond would have been 22 when he fathered Ms Washington-Williams by 16-year-old Carrie Butler, who lived in the poor, black district of Edgefield, South Carolina, and worked in Thurmond's parental home. Ms Butler was unmarried and her neighbors helped feed and cloth the baby until the child was taken at six months old to live with an aunt, according to the Washington Post.

Ms Washington-Williams first met Thurmond around 1941, when she visited Edgefield aged 16. Her mother was suffering from an untreatable kidney disease and insisted on introducing her to her father, she said.

Ms Washington-Williams said Thurmond called her a "very lovely daughter". She said: "I was very happy. I knew I had a father somewhere, and it was wonderful to meet him."

A year before he stood for the presidency championing the separation of the races he met his black daughter again.

Mr Wheaton said: "He asked her directly, 'How does it feel to be the daughter of the governor and not be able to tell anyone about it?' She said it felt fine." Mr Wheaton says Ms Washington-Williams's existence was never a secret in the Thurmond household. But few were ready to admit it.

Over the years that followed there were persistent rumors that he was the father of a black child. But Ms Washington-Williams said Thurmond denied them and he insisted she was a friend.

The Thurmond family's lawyer, Mark Taylor, said in a brief statement: "As Strom Thurmond has passed away and cannot speak for himself, the Thurmond family acknowledges Ms Essie Mae Washington-Williams' claim to her heritage. We hope this acknowledgment will bring closure for Ms Williams."



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    Morris Brown College Gets $1.5 Million Rescue Package

    aking money from their own budgets, the 39 colleges that constitute the United Negro College Fund voted this week to donate almost $1.5 million to Morris Brown College in Atlanta in an effort to rescue it from the brink of financial ruin.

    Faced with $27 million in debts and a federal inquiry into its finances, Morris Brown, a historically black college, had its accreditation revoked in December by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting body for 11 Southern states.

    Morris Brown quickly appealed the revocation, and has continued to limp along with about 1,400 students, slightly more than half of its usual enrollment. They are attending an accelerated spring semester designed to wrap up the academic year before early April, when the college's make-or-break hearing before the association takes place.

    Without accreditation, the college would cease to be eligible for federal student aid programs, from which Morris Brown derives as much as 70 percent of its revenue. It would also lose its annual contributions from the United Negro College Fund, a source of auxiliary income for private colleges that has given Morris Brown about $24 million over the last 10 years.

    Perhaps most important, the college would continue to face an exodus of students who were unwilling to gamble that Morris Brown would be able to regain its standing fast enough to bestow diplomas as an accredited institution.

    But Morris Brown would not necessarily close. Texas College, a historically black institution in Tyler, lost its accreditation in 1996 but kept its doors open and managed this year to regain its accreditation.

    To win its own appeal, Morris Brown hopes to show that it has made significant strides in tackling roughly $10 million in unpaid bills, often to vendors for items like laptop computers. College officials say they have raised close to $5 million toward that goal, combining gifts from local churches, the United Negro College Fund and alumni eager to safeguard the reputation of their degrees.

    The fund's $1.47 million gift would be in addition to the money the college already receives annually.

    "The message we're sending is, Look, this school has a historic mission and has educated tens of thousands of students," said William H. Gray III, president of the United Negro College Fund. "Morris Brown's future is at stake, and we want them to know that we are in solidarity with them."

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    Fox Shapes Up New Jackson Special

    Michael Jackson has made good on his threat to release his own footage compiled during months of interviews with British journalist Martin Bashir, whose recent TV special on Jackson caused a stir on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Jackson's camp has struck a deal with Fox Broadcasting Co. for a two-hour special to air Feb. 20. Tentatively titled "Michael Jackson Take 2: The Interview They Wouldn't Show You!" the special promises to feature outtakes and unused material from the Bashir sessions as well as a lengthy interview with Deborah Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of his two young children.

    Brad Lachman Productions is sifting through the Jackson footage and the Rowe interview, which was taped last week at Jackson's behest, to assemble the Fox special. Jackson has been on the offensive since the Bashir special aired Jan. 25 on the United Kingdom's ITV. ABC drew more than 27 million viewers last week with its telecast of the two-hour interview, during which Bashir confronted Jackson on his legendary eccentricities, particularly his relations with children who visit his Neverland estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.
    Jackson has maintained that Bashir used deceptive questioning and editing tricks to paint him in a bad light. Jackson's lawyers have filed a complaint with the British Broadcasting Standards Commission. After the ABC telecast last week, Jackson vowed to release footage that would cast doubt on the credibility of Bashir and his report.

    Jackson's camp has fielded overtures from dozens of news outlets since the ABC special aired, including ABC's Barbara Walters and CBS' "60 Minutes," Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said. Backerman said they opted to go with Fox "because they gave us the best package to present the most comprehensive view of the true facts from beginning to end."

    It was unclear how much Fox is paying for the rights to Jackson's private footage. Backerman insisted that Jackson is "not making a dime" from the Fox special, though he acknowledged that some money was changing hands in the form of a license fee that Fox would pay for the special.

    "Michael is doing this because he wants to set the record straight," Backerman said. "He felt betrayed and abused by Mr. Bashir. He felt it was a setup, and the video footage that will be revealed very soon will make that as clear as a smoking gun." Granada Television, which produced the Bashir special, said last week in response to the complaint filed in Britain that it stood by Bashir's report.

    Jackson has at least two hours of footage taken by his private cameraman of the interview sessions with Bashir, Backerman said. The Rowe interview was conducted last Wednesday as a one-on-one with a male journalist "who is not connected to Jackson," Backerman said, though he would not identify the journalist. "She was extremely credible, well-spoken, and emotional at times," Backerman said of Rowe's interview. "She was consistent in her responses and open in her discussion of the issues."

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    DMX Aims To 'Never Die Alone' On Screen

    Hip-hop heavyweight DMX will star in and produce the thriller "Never Die Alone" for director Ernest Dickerson. Based on a 1974 book by cult novelist Donald Goines, "Never" also stars David Arquette and Michael Ealy and follows the story of a gangster whose murder is witnessed by an aspiring journalist.

    "Never" is being produced by DMX and Alessandro Camon as the first feature under DMX's Bloodline Films company. Adapted by James Gibson, the project begins production this week in Los Angeles. "What a great opportunity 'Never Die Alone' brings," DMX said. "It is rewarding to share a real-life story with real-life executives that understand real-life situations. I'm hyped on this movie."

    DMX first learned of "Never" when he and producer Ed Pressman were in talks to collaborate on an installment of Pressman's "The Crow" franchise. DMX's Bloodline was formed to develop the project.
    The cinematographer for such Spike Lee films as "Malcolm X" and "Jungle Fever," Dickerson's directing credits include "Bones" and Showtime's "Good Fences," which screened at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

    DMX and Jet Li will be seen in the upcoming film "Cradle 2 the Grave," which arrives Feb. 28 in U.S. theaters. The Def Jam soundtrack, due Tuesday (Feb. 18), features the DMX cuts "X Gon' Give It to Ya" and "Right/Wrong," plus a collaboration with Eminem and Obie Trice on the track "Go To Sleep." The album also sports songs from 50 Cent, Foxy Brown, Clipse, and Drag-On.

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  • NAACP to Expand International Efforts

    By DEBORAH KONG, AP Minority Issues Writer

    The NAACP has long been known for its civil rights work on behalf of black Americans, but now the organization is increasing its attention to international concerns — including an effort to gain special status with the United Nations
    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in the final stages of being recognized as a "non-governmental organization" by the United Nations. The special "consultative status" with the U.N. Economic and Social Council means the NAACP will be able to propose agenda items and make presentations at relevant U.N. meetings.

    There are other examples of the NAACP's expanding focus. At its annual convention later this year, it is planning a summit on issues affecting the Caribbean and the Americas. Last year, it monitored Zimbabwe's elections and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and others met with Cuban President Fidel Castro along with other Cuban officials and dissidents — to promote human rights and trade.

    "We're hoping to step up our international work even more," Mfume said. The U.N. designation would underscore "the work of the association, while at the same time conferring upon the association a title and distinction that all of the United Nations recognizes."
    The group will increase its focus on Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, though Mfume noted the NAACP has been involved in international work before. Its 500,000 members include some in overseas branches in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

    Still, receiving U.N. status "gives you the capacity to influence the international agenda," said Manuel Orozco, Central America project director at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C.

    The NAACP will likely focus on economic development, trade, education and health issues, Mfume said. "This whole issue of human rights is very important," he said. "We believe it's important for the NAACP to be a clear voice on that subject."

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  • Hope and Doubt Greet Hartford School Desegregation Plan

    By PAUL von ZIELBAUER, NYTimes.com

    Word that state officials had agreed on a four-year, roughly $245 million plan to further desegregate the city's schools ricocheted this week through the suburbs, where reaction among parents, educators and taxpayers ranged from enthusiasm to skepticism.

    Their participation is voluntary but crucial. Desegregating the city's overwhelmingly black and Latino schools will depend not only on more white suburban parents sending their children to the eight magnet schools that will open in Hartford by June 2007. It will also require suburban administrators to double the number of classroom seats to make room for students from Hartford, and to expand summer and after-school programs and spend every dollar in their budgets more carefully than ever.

    Suburbanites will probably pay higher property taxes to make up an inevitable decrease in state education aid as lawmakers divert millions to pay for the plan.

    And yet, interviews with suburban school superintendents and parents suggest a willingness to join in the the most ambitious and expensive desegregation effort in this region's history.

    "I think it's an excellent resolution," said Joseph Townsley, superintendent of schools in Simsbury, an affluent suburb northwest of Hartford. "It's voluntary in nature, so it leaves the choice to parents," he said. "It gave local districts certainly the gift of time to plan for an increase in enrollment by minority students."

    A defining element of the desegregation plan, Dr. Townsley and other administrators said, will be the quality of the magnet schools. "Parents are going to have to believe that the magnet school offers something that they can't get locally, that it's safe and that the education provided matches up with their value system and what they believe is best for their child," Dr. Townsley said.

    Richard W. Kisiel, the superintendent in nearby Avon, said: "Suburban children and families will go to Hartford if the programs are unique, the facilities are up to date and Hartford can show that it is meeting its mission. That's what parents expect from us."

    Getting more money to teach more Hartford school children is also critical, suburban educators said. Currently, the state pays suburban school districts $2,000 a year for each of the roughly 800 Hartford pupils the districts educate as part of a long-standing state integration program.

    It is a money-losing venture for suburban districts, where the average cost of teaching a student is $7,500 to $9,500 a year, Dr. Townsley said. Sending a suburban child to one of Hartford's six existing magnet schools costs $2,000 to $4,000 a year, he said.

    State lawmakers, already facing a $2.2 billion shortfall this and next fiscal year, will need to boost the amount Hartford students bring to suburban schools if they want desegregation to work, suburban educators said. "Until they increase the dollar amount," Dr. Kisiel said, "I project over time the local districts are going to be less receptive to accepting the youngsters. There will be a backlash in the local community."

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  • Census Numbers Change Black-Hispanic Dynamic

    By DEBORAH KONG, AP Minority Issues Writer

    Frank Gilbert has watched the nation's demographics shift from his front yard as more and more Hispanics have moved into the neighborhood where the 78-year-old retired postal worker, who is black, raised three daughters.

    About five years ago, Hispanics began buying homes that blacks once owned across the street and down the block from Gilbert's one-story house. Now, black and Hispanic neighbors navigate the friendships and tensions that come with living side-by-side. "We're going to have to learn how to get along because we all live in the same neighborhood," Gilbert said. "Everybody wants the same thing: They want better homes, they want better education for their children, they want work."

    Census Bureau estimates released this past week show Hispanics outnumber blacks for the first time, making them the largest minority group in the United States. The Hispanic population rose almost 5 percent between April 2000 and last July, to 37 million. The non-Hispanic black population grew about 2 percent, to 36.1 million.

    Black and Hispanic groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza have seen the changes coming for years, and each has emphasized the importance of working on a common agenda.

    Yet some see challenges as Hispanics reach this milestone. They warn of resentment among blacks who — after building a long and proud history of fighting for civil rights — may now see issues of interest to Hispanics gaining more attention than black causes.

    "African-Americans do feel threatened," said Percy Hintzen, chair of the African American studies department at the University of California, Berkeley. "They do feel their power and their clout eroding."

    Over the years, Gilbert and his wife have befriended their new neighbors. A Hispanic mechanic who lives across the street helped Gilbert fix his car, refusing payment but saying he'd take some gumbo the next time Gilbert's wife fixed a pot. Gilbert greets Leonor Gonzalez and her children as she walks them to and from school. Sometimes the kids translate for their Spanish-speaking mother and they strike up a conversation.

    "It's peaceful here," said Gonzalez, 33. Blacks and Hispanics "get along very well."

    Felisha West, another black resident, said one recent example of the change is that fliers inviting people to homeowners' meetings are now in English and Spanish. However, she noted that there can be resentment. Some blacks feel they struggle to "get a house. It's hard for them to get a car. It's hard for them to just make it to the next level," West said. With Hispanics, "it just seems like they walk over and get everything."

    But Sonia Perez, La Raza's deputy vice president of research, said blacks and Hispanics share concerns about educational, economic and health disparities. "What's important is really to look at how we are doing as a community, not how big one is or the other," she said.
    There are many recent examples of the groups working together in California, where Hispanics have outnumbered blacks for decades.
    First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black congregation in Los Angeles, has started a Hispanic ministry.

    The NAACP's San Jose/Silicon Valley branch has two Hispanics and two Asians on its 27-member board and another board member of Middle Eastern descent, said Rick Callender, the group's president.
    The Los Angeles Urban League, which has long served the black community, provided social services to 78,000 people last year — 51 percent black and 31 percent Hispanic.

    "We are not going to abandon our historical African-American roots or constituency," said John Mack, its president. "But you can be for your own without being against somebody else." Still, with the economy in a slump and state budgets tight, some strain will be inevitable, said Roderick Harrison, an analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan group that studies issues of concern to blacks and other minorities.

    "You're competing for scarce resources, and it does become an issue of whose problem maybe gets more attention or more funds," he said. In Oakland, Esther Wadsworth, who is black, recalls how Hispanics lobbied school officials to add more Latinos to administrative ranks.

    "When they go to do something, they really sit together in groups, and I have to be honest about that," said Wadsworth, 73. Cesar Lopez, who sells tacos from a truck not far from Gilbert's place in east Oakland, said he's encountered hostility from some black customers. "They just don't like us," he said.

    With these delicate issues in mind, Oakland NAACP president Shannon Reeves is planning a black-Hispanic conference this fall.

    "There's a real need for the black community and Latino community to really get to know each other," he said.

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  • Blanks' life not letter perfect

    By Kat Carney, CNN

    Billy Blanks is best known for getting Americans to kick and punch their way to health with TaeBo, his own creation combining tae kwon do and boxing. When I caught up with him recently, he told me how his path to becoming a fitness phenom was nearly stalled by a learning disability that went undiagnosed for more than 30 years.

    "I grew up in special education," he recalls. "At the time, people told me I was retarded."

    But he wasn't. Blanks had dyslexia, a learning disorder that impairs a person's ability to read. It's estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of school age children have dyslexia.

    "I didn't like to read," says Blanks. "I was embarrassed because I didn't want kids to laugh at me, and kids sometimes have the tendency to make you feel bad when you can't do what the teacher wants you to do."
    Blanks decided that if he couldn't excel in school, he would try martial arts. But that was another challenge.
    "My instructor was trying to teach me how to do karate. He started to get frustrated because I couldn't pick it up. I would see things backwards."

    But Blanks didn't give up.

    "Sooner or later, I started to see myself progress. The next thing you know, I got my black belt before everybody in the class." Eventually, Blanks earned black belts in six types of martial arts and became a seven-time world karate champion. Lead rolls in martial arts movies followed, but his undiagnosed dyslexia was still a roadblock.

    "I was very lucky and very blessed to have a wife who could read really well," he says. "She took the script and she would read it to me and I would memorize it."

    Blanks' wife of more than 20 years had no idea he had trouble reading; much less that he had a learning disorder. But ultimately, she was the first to suspect that her superstar husband had dyslexia. "We went to a mall and I looked up and saw this sign and I read the sign backwards," he recalls. "She said, 'Billy, read that sign again.' So I looked up and read it again, and I saw that I read it backwards and left out words."

    When some dyslexics attempt to read, they see letters that appear upside down or backward or with improper spacing.

    These examples are from the Web site KidsHealth.org:
    "Thes ew ord sare notsp aced cor rect ly

    At the age of 37, after several tests at a dyslexia center, Blanks was diagnosed.

    "It didn't bother me," he recalls. "I just said, that's one of the reasons I couldn't read. That's one of the reasons I ran away from spelling, ran away from math books or history books. I got an opportunity to find out why I was running."

    Blanks isn't running anymore. Treatment at a reading center for dyslexics helped him overcome the impairment, and he's more than happy to show off his new skills.

    "Now I can read books, I can get in front of thousands of people and talk and not be scared. I can do just about anything."

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  • R. Kelly Arrested on Child Porn Charges

    R. Kelly, already facing child pornography charges in Illinois, was arrested on January 22nd in Florida on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found 12 photographs of a nude girl at the singer's home.

    Kelly, whose first name is Robert, was arrested without incident at a Miami-Dade County hotel. He was being held at the county jail. Bond was set at $12,000.

    The Grammy award-winning artist has been out on bond and awaiting trial on 21 counts of child pornography in Chicago. Those charges stem from a videotape authorities say shows him having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Kelly, 36, has denied that charge.

    Col. Grady Judd of the Polk County Sheriff's Office said the latest charges were filed after pornographic digital images were found stored in Kelly's camera equipment. It had been seized during a search last June 6 in his rented Davenport home after the singer was arrested there on the Illinois warrant. Davenport is about 35 miles southwest of Orlando.

    "In three of the photos he is engaged in sexual conduct with a minor," Judd said.

    Judd would not say whether the unidentified minor in the photos were of the same girl in the video made in Chicago, where Kelly lives. Police were still trying to determine where the pictures were taken before considering any additional charges, Judd said.

    He said it took seven months to issue the Polk County warrant because the State Attorney's Office needed time to investigate.

    Kelly was released from jail about three hours after his arrest and was hustled into a waiting car to avoid reporters. Edward Genson, Kelly's lawyer in Chicago, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    Kelly also has been the focus of at least four other lawsuits, three of which accuse him of having sex with underage girls. He has acknowledged settling two of the lawsuits regarding underage sex, but his lawyers have said they will fight the third.

    Kelly's new album, "Chocolate Factory," is scheduled to be released in February. He was nominated for a Grammy earlier this month for the song "The World's Greatest," from the "Ali" soundtrack,

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