Hip hop star/actor/producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has signed a development deal with attorney Isaac Wright, Jr. to bring his compelling story to television. Wright is a former break-dancer with Uptown Express, a dance collective that ended up becoming finalists on “Star Search.” In the early 1990s, Wright was charged with running one of the largest drug distribution networks in the New York, New Jersey metropolitan areas. In 1991, Wright was convicted under New Jersey’s drug kingpin law and was sentenced to life in prison.
While in prison, Wright studied the law and oversaw his own appeal. Things turned in his favor during the cross-examination of veteran police detective James Dugan during an evidentiary hearing in 1996, where Wright convinced Dugan to break the code of silence and confess to police misconduct in his case. Dugan’s confession opened revelations of wide and systematic misconduct and cover-up in Wright’s case, pointing the finger in his case specifically at Somerset County’s head prosecutor Nicholas L. Bissell, Jr.
Dugan fingered Bissell as being the orchestrator of the misconduct, directing police officers to falsify their police reports while he personally dictated the false testimony of witnesses and made secret deals with defense attorneys to have their clients provide false testimony to jurors that Wright was their drug boss and they had also pled guilty and were facing prison time. Truth is, those stories were fabricated and none of the people who testified faced even a day in jail.
Dugan pled guilty to official misconduct in order to escape prison and Judge Michael Imbriani, who oversaw the trial, was removed from the bench and was sent to prison on theft charges. Bissell, after learning of Dugan’s confession on TV news, took flight with federal authorities in pursuit. As police were kicking in the door of his Las Vegas hotel room, Bissell shot himself in a head, committing suicide.
After being released from prison, Wright spent another seven years pursuing his law degree and got his undergraduate degree in 2002. He began law school in 2004 and graduated from Saint Thomas University School of Law in 2007. The law school renamed its cafeteria in his name. Wright then passed the New Jersey Bar in 2008, but spent the next nine years being investigated by the New Jersey Bar’s Committee on character before being granted admission to the bar by the New Jersey Supreme Court on September 27, 2017, where he was officially sworn in as a licensed attorney. On that day Wright became the first and only person in U.S. history to be sent to prison for life as a drug kingpin, secure his own freedom and exoneration while creating new law in the process, obtain a law degree and be admitted to practice law by the very same Court that condemned him.
“I went to law school for one reason and one reason only,” says Wright. “To slay giants for a price. And if the giant is big enough and the cause is important enough, I’ll do it for free, especially when it involves helping those who cannot help themselves.”
He is now a counsel with the firm Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley located in Newark, New Jersey.
Radio One, Inc., the largest black owned multi-media company in America and parent company of TV One, Interactive One, Reach Media and One Solution and Edison Research today announce the findings of “Black, White and Blue: A Spotlight on Race in America,” an in-depth study on the true state of race relations in this country.
On the heels of outrage, protests and emotional responses after the shooting of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and the subsequent shooting of five police officers in Dallas, the findings are enlightening and encouraging. The story of race relations in America is not starkly “black and white.” The historical difference between the attitudes and opinions of Black and White Americans is certainly affirmed in some study findings, but beliefs and feelings converge across color lines on several critical issues, which speaks to the healing many are calling for across the racial divide. There is strong agreement among Black and White Americans on possible solutions to improve race relations between Blacks and police. However, the study finds neither presidential candidate emerges as a solution.
Black and White Americans Agree . . .
Discrimination in America
Discrimination and racial bias are still perceived among all Americans. Although Black and White Americans are IDENTICAL in their perception of NOT having a racial bias (only 26 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Whites think they are racially biased); 91 percent acknowledge some, or a lot of discrimination against Blacks. While our survey findings reveal that few recognize their own personal biases, a clear majority can acknowledge discrimination.
An additional noteworthy point of divergence rests in how significant the issue of discrimination is amongst Black and White Americans. Seven in 10 Black Americans perceive a lot of bias against Blacks, compared to fewer than 3 in 10 Whites. There is considerable misalignment in acknowledging the magnitude of the problem, yet overwhelming agreement on the existence of the problem. It’s a start.
Senseless Shootings Are of Concern
The study found more than half of the total population believes race played a role in the Alton Sterling (Louisiana) and Philando Castile (Minneapolis) shootings. Both Black and White Americans are VERY concerned about the shooting of Dallas police officers, 72 and 77 percent respectively. However, when it comes to the shooting of Castile and Sterling, White Americans’ strong concerns drop by over 40 percent. We must question this distinction. Every life has value regardless of race, socio-economics or profession.
Race Relations and Police Relationship with Black Americans Worsened Since Obama
Although 77 percent of Black Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling conflict between Blacks and the police, 83 percent of Blacks feel the relationship between Black Americans and the police has not changed, or has gotten worse since he took office in 2009. White Americans echo this sentiment at 85 percent.
The Racial Divide . . .
Black Lives Matter, only a three-year old movement, was birthed out of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. It is arguably the most effective collaboration to highlight institutional racism, demand police and judicial reform, challenge leaders and organize Black Americans since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Significantly, 72 percent of the total population understands why Blacks are participating in the movement. The study also found, when people were asked to describe Black Lives Matter in one or two words, many similar sentiments surfaced to the top of the list. For Black Americans, “equality,” “justice” and “black lives” capped the list. White Americans match with the terms “equality,” “black lives” and “good.”
Although White Americans believe they understand why Blacks participate in the movement, 64 percent of White Americans do not support the Black Lives Matter movement, as they do not think it is making a positive difference. The vast majority of White Americans think the movement encourages violence, is divisive to America and suggests that black lives matter more. These sentiments are in stark contrast to Black Americans who believe the movement is making a positive difference.
Police Bring Out Black and White Differences
Seventy-Four percent (74 percent) of Black Americans and 84 percent of White Americans report being treated respectfully by police during their last police interaction. This supports the belief that the majority of law enforcement officers are honoring their oath when engaging African Americans. Yet, 62 percent of Black Americans are very concerned about their children having a negative experience with the police, while only 28 percent of Whites share this concern. Blacks are 250% more likely than Whites to feel scared or threatened when stopped by police. The racial divide continues. More than half of Black Americans – think racial profiling is used by law enforcement in their community all of the time in stark contrast to 15 percent of White Americans. The difference in feelings and opinions between Black and White Americans regarding the police is glaring and should surface as a much needed, continuous dialogue.
White House Hopefuls Won’t Improve Police Relations with Black Americans
Despite the fact that 93 percent of both Black and White Americans believe it is important for the candidates to talk about the conflict between Black Americans and the police, Americans as a whole do not believe either presidential candidate will improve relations between Black Americans and the police.
When it comes to the management of race relations, 40 percent of Americans believe Secretary Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential nominee, will do a better job than Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee. Additionally, the study reveals 61 percent of the total population believes Trump’s campaign has escalated racial tensions in America.
Common Ground Found On Solutions
After assessing race relations, the perception of the Black Lives Matter movement and the political climate in America several months before electing a new president and just days after seven lives were tragically taken, this in-depth, independent study conducted by Edison Research tested solutions to improve relations between Black Americans and the police. Black and White Americans are aligned on potential solutions. Increasing community policing, implementing body and dashboard cameras, civilian review boards, mandatory racial discrimination awareness training and the reduction of inner city crime are universally accepted as viable answers to the crisis we face in America.
While the whole country focuses on this historic and critical 2016 presidential election and seeks answers and healing from the recurring tragic shootings in our country, the study’s findings give us hope. The potential solutions to improve relations between Blacks and the police are “home-grown.” The study calls for the higher consciousness of both Black and White Americans to not merely frame the issues we currently face in terms of race. These are not black and white, or black versus white issues. Black people can be pro-black and not be anti-white or anti-police. Black Americans can also be anti-police misconduct, abuse and excessive force and advocate for the safety of police in service to our communities. These ideals are not in conflict. There is a tremendous amount of agreement with Black and White Americans on potential solutions to improve the relationship between Blacks and the police. The good news – it starts right in each of our local communities.
Black Media Company Elevates Discussion
ALL RADIO ONE, INC. PLATFORMS ROADBLOCK: TV, RADIO, and DIGITAL to SPEAK OUT ON BLACK, WHITE AND BLUE: SPOTLIGHT ON RACE IN AMERICA STUDY STARTING AT 7 A.M. THURSDAY
Radio One, Inc. and all of its media platforms are committed to continuing this dialogue and raising awareness of the encouraging, colorless common ground revealed in this study. Today, starting at 7 a.m., Radio One, Inc. leverages its collective strength and releases the findings of Black, White and Blue: A Spotlight on Race in America study across its multi-media platforms that reach 82% of Black America. TV One’s News One Now, the only daily television news program dedicated to Black viewers will break down survey findings with host and managing editor Roland S. Martin. Martin is a veteran journalist who has been an influential figure reporting on the Black Lives Matter movement since its evolution. Reach Media’s nationally syndicated morning shows, The Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS) , Rickey Smiley Morning Show, Russ Parr Morning Show, Get Up! Mornings with Erica Campbell; to Interactive One’s digital brands, NewsOne.com, HelloBeautiful.com, GlobalGrind.com, UrbanDaily.com, Elev8.com and all 56 of its local radio stations, audiences can expect wrap around coverage of the research findings, found at BlackWhiteBlue.newsone.com.
The Radio One family of companies will also soon launch a public service announcement campaign and develop programs and partnerships with organizations committed to raising awareness around our commonalities and implementing the solutions identified in the study.
The Radio One-Edison Research National Survey is a national study of Americans age 18 years and older. The survey was conducted online from July 15th – 18th, 2016. A total of 1,505 interviews were conducted. The black population was oversampled in the study (517 interviews) to allow for in-depth analysis of that group. Sample for the online survey was provided by Survey Sampling International (SSI). The data was weighted to match the most recent United States population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for age, gender, race, income, education and region of the country.
(Silver Spring, MD…July 8, 2016)– Radio One, Inc. is deeply saddened and troubled by the recent events in our country. There is no doubt, this is a critical moment in our history. From Baton Rouge, LA and Minneapolis, MN to Dallas, TX, the outcry of Black people is reverberating throughout this country. Our prayers and condolences are with the bereaved families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. We pray for your peace and comfort.
Though the chain of events this week is unprecedented, the sound of frustration and outrage are all too familiar. Black lives matter because ALL lives matter. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.” The killing must stop. It doesn’t serve anyone. Certainly there is a better solution.
We are not anti-police. We are anti-police misconduct, abuse and excessive force. We must protect the civil rights and lives of Black Americans and we must protect law enforcement officers who serve our communities. Both of these goals can co-exist and equally be served. Unfortunately, when these ideals aren’t aligned nor remembered, we are forced to live with the greatest loss of all – life.
Acknowledging the significance of this moment, all this week, we have leveraged our multi-media platforms of local radio, TV One, Interactive One and Reach Media to encourage our community to lift their voices and be heard; promote peace in the street; and demand justice, accountability and reform in our police and justice systems. From exclusive coverage on TV One’s News One Now with Roland Martin to stopping the music and opening the phone lines for listener expression on our 56 urban radio stations and syndicated shows such as the Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS) , Rickey Smiley Morning Show, Russ Parr Morning Show & D.L. Hughley Show we’ve served our community. We’ve produced numerous public service announcements and created empowering and informative content that spanned our national digital platforms such as NewsOne.com andHelloBeautiful.com to the millions of people we touch through our social media network. And we won’t stop here. We will do more to educate and mobilize our community.
As a communications company, we are obligated to tell the stories others won’t and to amplify the voices of our hurting community. We won’t be silent.
If you are not familiar with Armstrong Williams, he is a political commentator, entrepreneur, author of a nationally syndicated conservative newspaper column, and host of a daily radio show and a nationally syndicated TV program called The Right Side with Armstrong Williams. Williams is also founder and CEO of the Graham Williams Group, an international marketing, advertising, and media public relations consulting firm, and is a political talk show host on TV and radio. Williams was labeled by The Washington Post as “one of the most recognizable conservative voices in America.”
With that conservative voice, Williams is also recognized as the business manager and confidant to Presidential hopeful, Ben Carson. Williams is no stranger to the spotlight and no stranger to controversy as he has been under fire in the past for allegedly being paid $240,000 to promote the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law.
Armstrong Williams also wrote a passionate piece for The Root as he pondered the question, “What If Black Lives Really Mattered?” In the piece he basically said, “If Black lives really mattered, activists would concentrate on improving the state of the black family instead of focusing on isolated instances of police misconduct.” Some people loved the piece while others felt, Mr. Williams was blaming the victim.
Despite the drama, you can’t deny that Armstrong Williams is a highly successful entrepreneur. In early 2013 Williams began expanding his outreach by entering into media ownership with the purchase of two television stations, from a larger part of a $370 million acquisition of Barrington Broadcasting by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Howard Stirk Holdings LLC, which Williams owns, was given ownership over NBC affiliate WEYI-TV in Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Michigan and CW affiliate WWMB in Myrtle Beach-Florence, South Carolina. Both stations remain operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement.
On December 4, 2014, the FCC approved the transfer of station licenses for WMMP, Charleston, South Carolina, WCFT-TV, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and WJSU-TV, Anniston, Alabama from Sinclair Broadcasting to Howard Stirk Holdings, foregoing any operational agreements. Howard Stirk Holdings operate these stations independently.
On January 28, 2015, Intermountain West Communications Company filed to sell KVMY to Howard Stirk Holdings. HSH had agreed on January 14 to purchase for $150,000 the stock of the Sinclair subsidiary that was a party to IWCC’s sale of KSNV-DT and currently holds the license of KVCW; KVCW and KSNV themselves remain under Sinclair ownership. Howard Stirk Holdings revealed in its January 2015 application to purchase Las Vegas station KVMY that it again planned to acquire the WLYH license from Nexstar.
With his recent purchase of KVMY, the MyNet affiliate in Las Vegas, and WLYH, the CW affiliate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has brought his total holdings to seven television stations, the majority of the mere 12 U.S. television stations — out of 2,119 nationwide — with black owners.
In an interview with The Washington Times, the conservative pundit said he hopes to one day own 10 TV stations and expand the content he would like to see on television.
“We want to reinforce the kind of values and virtues that make America grea.We want the kind of shows that families can sit down and watch and be proud of. We want people to know that you don’t always have to lead with what bleeds. We want to uplift people we want to give people real self-esteem and real worth.”
Mr. Williams’ company, Howard Stirk Holdings LLC, also bolsters a high level of success in diversity as well.
“One of the things that we’re proud of is the fact that probably 75 percent of our workforce are minorities. We truly celebrate diversity,” said Marcus Mullings, vice president of Howard Stirk Holdings. “Almost 50 percent of that workforce is women. When you talk about the issue of black men not finding jobs, the issue of inequality, 55 percent of our work force is black men.”
Armstrong Willliams has many people out there that don’t support his politics but you can’t knock the man’s hustle and/or work ethic. It is a major accomplishment for him to be the largest Black owner of TV stations in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The Executive Leadership Council has announced its support for The Legal Defense Fund’s call for the federal government to enact nationwide policing reforms. At a minimum, such reform must include federal legislation related to increasing Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight of funding for police department training and strengthening the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s ability to identify and investigate patterns of discrimination and misconduct that can potentially surface at police departments across the country.
Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and now Freddie Gray; these three cases are just the most recent, high-profile examples of Black males who were killed during questionable interactions with law enforcement officers in America. The African-American business community cannot remain silent while members of our own communities and individuals who are our brothers, our sons and our grandsons are killed. Thus The ELC pledges its support of The Legal Defense Fund’s call for legislative enhancements and increased federal oversight. We too, believe that the following measures will help combat police misconduct across the country and help bring a greater level of accountability to local police departments:
Greater oversight by the DOJ over the utilization of its law enforcement grant programs, to determine how such programs can be used to provide and support increased training for police officers in key areas.
Increased funding and resources for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to help strengthen its efforts to conduct thorough reviews of any police department believed to be engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination.
“The life-threatening reality of racial bias in policing threatens to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system and in the rule of law itself – a bedrock principle of our democracy,” said ELC President and CEO Ron Parker, who is helping to rally the business community around this cause, which has affected the African-American community at a disproportionate rate. “We rely on principles of fairness and equity in all American institutions, both public and private. As we’ve seen in Tulsa, North Charleston, and most recently Baltimore, these principles are not being upheld in our law enforcement institutions to the detriment of the African- American community and American society as a whole.”
The ELC also credits the work of religious and civil rights leaders and organizations that have been intensely focused on these issues for years, such as the Legal Defense Fund, which has used litigation, policy advocacy, and public education to ensure that African-Americans and other communities of color are treated fairly and without regard to race in the criminal justice system. “I am thrilled that The ELC has chosen to lend its voice in support of the need for policing reform,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “When a business group with the stature of The ELC chooses to speak, people listen. The ELC’s engagement in this issue speaks powerfully to the urgent need for change. We are excited about this important collaboration.” As Black business leaders, The ELC is committed to continuing to speak and support measures that will strengthen the legitimacy of our justice system and the rule of law, and it knows the reforms it is supporting today will help it achieve these goals of inclusion and respect in America.
Parker also emphasizes the business case for ardent reform. “Police reform is not just a social and/or civil rights issue – it is an economic imperative,” said Parker. “As a group of global business leaders, we are mindful that the world is watching how we as a nation treat our black and brown men and women. The world is taking note of the value we place on these lives and the potential of the lives that are growing up in communities of color.”
History has shown us repeatedly that our ability to protect, serve and meet the needs of the least of us, determines how well and how high we rise and prosper together as a nation. We must also be mindful of how we support the good men and women in law enforcement who work to protect the lives of black men and boys, as well as others in our communities. Let us remember to teach justice and respect while demanding their application to all.