• Request After Erica Garner’s Death Prompts Debate
  • Essence Sold to Black-Owned Firm
  • U.S. Muslims Projected to Outnumber Jews by 2040
  • Simeon Booker Services Set for National Cathedral
  • Kotb Won’t Make Near Lauer’s Salary on ‘Today’
  • Henderson to Return to Detroit Public TV
  • Marshall Project Makes Diversity a ‘Central Pillar’
  • K.C. Star Forces Release of Chilling Footage
  • St. Paul Paper Applauds New Mayor on Diversity
  • Short Takes
Erica Garner on Feb. 16, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

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Within minutes of Erica Garner’s death Saturday, the administrator of her Twitter account faced backlash over a post requesting that only black journalists reach out to the family,” Chris Sommerfeldt reported Dec. 30 for the Daily News in New York.

“ ‘Out of respect to Erica please do not request comment if the journalist is not Black,” tweeted the account used by Garner, who became an anti-police brutality activist after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placed her dad, Eric Garner, in an illegal chokehold that killed him on July 17, 2014.

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“The tweet drew ire from some Twitter users, who called it ‘racist’ and said it affronted Erica Garner’s legacy of unity and equality.’

Reggie Harris, a friend of Erica Garner’s from California who spent time at her hospital bedside after she suffered a massive heart attack last weekend, was identified earlier in the week by her relatives as the person operating her Twitter feed. He did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

“ ‘Those who knew erica call this post a disrespect to her and her legacy,’ ABC anchor Bill Ritter tweeted about the ‘black journalists’ only request. . . .” Ritter is white.

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Others defended Harris.

Eugene Scott, a reporter for the Washington Post who is black, tweeted Dec. 30, “Non-black journalists complaining about how it is unfair that the Garners want to share their story with black journalists should just ask the black person in their newsroom to ask for comment — unless their newsroom doesn’t have a black journalist ...”

Scott also tweeted, “It is a PRIVILEGE that people choose to share their stories with us. We’re not entitled to their stories. Considering how often the media misrepresents marginalized communities in our coverage, we should be grateful they even pick up the phone when we call much less talk to us.”

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On mic.com, Zak Cheney Rice wrote Tuesday of the request for a black journalist, “A cursory scan of Erica’s past comments about race and media shows that this statement was not just compatible with her legacy — it crystallized it. Erica frequently bemoaned the lack of black representation in journalism. She [broadcast] her decisions to give exclusive interviews to black reporters, most notably black women reporters, and to take stories to black journalists before giving comment to others.

“Never mind that, by doing this, Erica was fighting a strain of institutional racism that news companies have spent decades failing to fix on their own. Ignoring this amounts to co-opting her legacy. Instead of honestly assessing what Garner actually stood for, these commenters are engaging in the well-trod practice of recasting black rights advocates as colorblind figures who just wanted everyone to get along. . . .”

Thursday on The Root, Michael Harriot, also black, wrote of “white tears.” “They had nothing to do with Erica Garner, her activism or even her death,” Harriot wrote. “Caucasian tear ducts don’t even open for black bodies. They only respond to the perceived oppression of white people. The salty faces were because Erica Garner’s family announced that they would give interviews and comments only to black journalists. . . .”

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Harriot argued, “black media members might be more sympathetic to a black family’s pain and loss. Regardless of their experience, professionalism or allyship, there are certain things even well-meaning white people can sometimes take for granted — intentionally or not. While this idea might seem exclusionary and discriminatory, it is nonetheless true. How do I know?

“Because I have been the well-meaning journalist who got a story wrong — not because I was inconsiderate, prejudiced or unqualified — but because I wasn’t as vigilant as someone who was more connected to the story. . . .”

The exchanges illustrate how much the chasm between some members of the media and some members of communities of color remains. Scott noted that some women ask for female reporters to discuss sexual harassment or gender issues, and news managers sometimes make that decision in hopes of getting a better story.

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In addition, reporters who parachute into stories about police-community tensions have given journalists a bad name, and many of them have been white.

However, Harris, the administrator of Erica Garner’s account, wrote Sunday, “for all who don’t know Erica that call her racist or other things. There was no journalist that she spent more time with or gave more access to than @mtaibbi he became a friend. BUT AT FIRST HE WAS A BEST SELLING AUTHOR... see the difference. she was smart. She was strategic.” Matt Taibbi, who wrote the recently published “I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street,” about the death of Eric Garner, is white.

Megan Carpentier, an editor at NBC News THINK who is white, tweeted Sunday, “I was honored that @es_snipes chose to trust me as an editor with her story, as I am always grateful when a marginalized writer with a deeply personal story agrees to enter into a very intellectually intimate engagement with a relatively privileged stranger.”

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Funeral services for Erica Garner are planned for Monday at First Corinthian Baptist Church, 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Manhattan. Viewing is 4 p.m. and services are 5 p.m.

Kashana Cauley, New York Times: Erica Garner and How America Destroys Black Families

Essence Sold to Black-Owned Firm

Time Inc. has sold Essence Communications, publisher of Essence magazine and operator of its annual Essence Festival, to a newly formed black-owned company that is giving the all-female Essence leadership a stake in the business, the new company announced Wednesday.

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Essence Ventures, created in 2017, is led by Richelieu Dennis, a Liberian-born entrepreneur who sold Sundial Brands, parent company of Shea Moisture and related personal care products, to consumer goods giant Unilever in November for a large but undisclosed sum.

ESSENCE President Michelle Ebanks will continue at the helm of the company and will also join its board of directors,” Wednesday’s announcement said. “In addition, the all Black female executive team of ESSENCE, including Ebanks, will have an equity stake in the business. . . .”

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The release did not state why Time chose Dennis over other bidders.

Dennis said in the announcement, “The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to ESSENCE over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the ESSENCE brand and transform this business.

“As importantly, we are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business.”

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Essence magazine was founded as a black-owned publication in 1970. Time Inc. assumed a majority stake in Essence Communication Partners in 2005.

Time unveiled a $400 million cost-cutting strategy in August, and in November, Meredith Corp. owner of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens and AllRecipes, as well as 17 TV stations, announced it had “entered into a binding agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Time Inc. . . . for $18.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $2.8 billion.”

Essence is already promoting its 2018 festival.

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However, Time Inc. decided that Essence would not be part of the sale. It did not say why, but Samir Husni, the magazine specialist at the University of Mississippi known as “Mr. Magazine,” told Journal-isms then that one reason could be the success of the Essence Festival.

The celebration, held in New Orleans and now also in South Africa, has become the largest magazine-sponsored festival in the world, Husni said.

When Rich Battista, Time Inc.’s chief executive, said in July that Time was looking to sell its majority stake in Essence, he said, “A new investor might have the resources to enable Essence to expand its growing events business at a time when many publications are seeking new revenue opportunities. . . .”

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Ebanks said in her statement, “This acquisition of ESSENCE represents the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multigenerational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms.

“In addition, it represents a critical recognition, centering and elevation of the Black women running the business from solely a leadership position to a co-ownership position.”

The Sundial website says of its founder:

Born in Liberia, Sundial Brands CEO Richelieu Dennis came to the United States to attend renowned business school Babson College. When he graduated in 1991, he was unable to return to Liberia because of civil war. Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship and sustained by a vision to fill unmet consumer needs, Richelieu partnered with his best friend and college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies.

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“Drawing from deep traditions born out of his family’s roots in Africa and passed down to him from his grandmother, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes, wisdom and cultural experiences into natural bath and body care products, co-founding Sundial with his mother — Mary Dennis — and Nyema. . . .”

Dennis sold Sundial in November but remains CEO and executive chairman.

The announcement of that sale said, “As part of the agreement, Unilever and Sundial are creating the New Voices Fund with an unprecedented initial investment of US$50 million to empower women of color entrepreneurs. The intention is to scale the Fund to US$100 million by attracting investments from other interested parties. . . .”

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Adam Bryant, New York Times: Richelieu Dennis of Sundial Brands on Building a Business vs. a Career (Sept. 22)

U.S. Muslims Projected to Outnumber Jews by 2040

Despite President Trump’s efforts to impose a ban on immigration from majority-Muslim countries, “Muslims are expected to become the second-largest religious group in the United States after Christians by 2040, according to a new report,” Al Jazeera reported Thursday.

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“There were 3.45 [million] Muslims living in the US in 2017 representing about 1.1 percent of the total population, a study by Pew Research Center found.

“At present, the number of Jewish people [outnumbers] Muslims as the second-largest religious group but that is expected to change by 2040 because ‘the US Muslim population will grow much faster than the country’s Jewish population’, the report said. . . .”

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | Times-Picayune: Steve Bannon vs. Donald Trump is a comic-book battle of villains

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Editorial, Kansas City Star: What the demise of Trump’s voter fraud commission teaches Kansans about Kris Kobach

Editorial, Miami Herald: Trump’s pitiably wrong on Haitians and AIDS. Here are the facts. (Dec. 26)

Daniel C. Kurtzer, Daily News, New York: How Obama and the nuclear deal he brokered may have helped spark Iran’s protests — in a good way

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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Was 2017 the ‘craziest’ year? It all depends on how you define ‘crazy’

Simeon Booker Services Set for National Cathedral

Simeon Booker (Youngstown Vindicator)

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The memorial service for Simeon Booker, who for 50 years was Washington bureau chief for Jet and Ebony magazines, is to be held Jan. 29 at the Washington National Cathedral, his family announced Thursday. Booker, a civil rights journalism pioneer, died Dec. 10 at age 99.

The nave of the cathedral has been the site of services for many prominent journalists, most recently Washington news anchor Jim Vance, but also the Washington Post’s publisher Katharine Graham, executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee and columnist William Raspberry. It can hold about 3,000 people, cathedral spokesman Kevin Eckstrom said.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon, has been confirmed as a speaker, Carol McCabe Booker, Simeon Booker’s widow, told Journal-isms. Accompanying the Congress of Racial Equality, Lewis and Booker, along with reporter Moses Newson, confronted danger together on the Freedom Rides of 1961, testing segregated bathroom and restaurant facilities in bus and train stations throughout the South.

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In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Simeon Booker Scholarship at Youngstown State University, an announcement said. “All gifts designated for this minority scholarship are matched by the [YSU Foundation], to which checks should be payable, at 655 Wick Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio 44502.”

Herb Boyd, Amsterdam News, New York: Two civil rights icons—Simeon Booker Jr. and Ernest Finney Jr. (Dec. 14)

Editorial, Afro-American: Simeon Booker — A Significant Reporter of the 1950-1970’s Civil Rights Wars Has Passed Away at 99 (Dec. 14)

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W. Ralph Eubanks, New Yorker: Remembering the Pioneering Black Journalist Simeon Booker, “The Man from Jet” (Dec. 12)

Howard W. French, New York Times: The Legacy of Simeon Booker, a Pioneer of Civil Rights Journalism (Dec. 13)

Hamil Harris, Afro-American: In Memoriam: Life of Simeon Booker Jr.: Black Press Loses its Dean Who Got His Start at the AFRO (Dec. 14)

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Curtis Stephen, Columbia Journalism Review: Simeon Booker was a leader among early, unheralded reporters on race (Dec. 15)

Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb (NBC News)

Kotb Won’t Make Near Lauer’s Salary on ‘Today’

Hoda Kotb might be raking in the ratings on ‘Today,’ but she tells People magazine she won’t be making the same salary as the man she’s replacing,” Doha Madani reported Wednesday for Huffington Post.

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“NBC announced on Tuesday that Kotb would be replacing Matt Lauer as the co-anchor of the ‘Today’ show after Lauer was accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Kotb will join Savannah Guthrie to lead the first two hours of the program, making history as the first female co-anchors for that segment.

“Kotb told People on Wednesday that neither she nor Guthrie are making the same kind of money Lauer was.

“ ‘I think the whole money thing for me, I’ve always been sort of — I know it sounds ridiculous that I’m going to say this, but I really have done jobs I liked for the job I liked because I never wanted to be happy every other Friday on pay day,’ Kotb told People. ‘Like, I didn’t want that to be the happy day. I wanted to feel good throughout. So no, I’m not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close.’

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“Kotb did not mention what her contracted salary is, but Page Six reports that she and Guthrie are each making $7 million annually. Lauer ended his 25-year career at the network with a $25 million contract. . . .”

Kotb’s parents were born in Cairo. The NBC move marks the first time “Today” has had two female co-anchors, breaking from the male-female template.

Henderson to Return to Detroit Public TV

Stephen Henderson

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Fired Detroit Free Press opinion editor Stephen Henderson will return to Detroit Public TV now that the station has completed its investigation into whether there were any misconduct claims against him,” Sarah Rahal reported Dec. 30 for the Detroit News.

“Henderson, who hosts ‘American Black Journal’ and is a contributor for ‘MiWeek’ on WTVS-TV (Channel 56), was terminated as managing director of opinion and commentary at the Free Press for misconduct on Dec. 15. There were no accusations or evidence of sexual assault.

“The Free Press’ internal investigation found inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues stretching back several years, and WTVS officials said due to his termination at the newspaper, they launched an internal investigation.

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“ ‘We hired an independent law firm who found there were no inappropriate actions of any kind. Everyone spoke of how highly professional he is, and we are excited to have Stephen back,’ said Martin Fischhoff, spokesman for WTVS. . . .”

Crain’s Chicago Business

Marshall Project Makes Diversity a ‘Central Pillar’

The Marshall Project, launched three years ago to conduct investigative reporting on criminal justice issues, was named after the first African American Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall.

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However, the project conceded in a report Thursday, “When The Marshall Project launched in November 2014, two of our eight staff writers were people of color, but the leadership was entirely white and predominantly male. We realized that we needed to take steps to broaden representation, and began work to systematically improve our diversity profile.”

The report showed, “As of a staff survey in November 2017, the third anniversary of our launch, 12 of 29 employees (41 percent) identify as people of color, including nine of 21 members of the newsroom team (43 percent). Women make up 55 percent of the full staff and 48 percent of the newsroom, including the president and managing editor. . . .”

Carroll Bogert, president of the project, explained the genesis of the report via email. “Last August, several Marshall Project staff members attended the annual NABJ conference,” she said, referring to the National Association of Black Journalists, “where we hosted a panel (‘Nonprofit News: Journalism’s Next Frontier’) and staffed a Marshall Project booth.

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“They came back feeling that a lot of people were unaware of what The Marshall Project was doing to diversify its staff and board. We decided we should provide a public accounting.

“We were already discussing these issues at meetings of our staff diversity committee, but we also convened a full staff conversation about diversity and devoted part of a board meeting to the topic as well. A commitment to staff and board diversity is now one of the central pillars of our strategic plan, approved by our board last month.”

The report also gave readers the racial percentages for the board (15 percent black, 8 percent Asian), but did not break out the composition of its leadership.

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“We will continue to put a premium on diversity as we recruit, hire and promote, including for leadership positions,” the report said. “We will continue to seek out experienced journalists of color, but we will also do more to add to their ranks in the industry at large. The Marshall Project is committed to building internships and fellowship programs to bring young journalists of color into our newsroom and provide the training and mentoring they need for their talents to blossom.”


K.C. Star Forces Release of Chilling Footage

Ciara Howard’s last act of defiance was slamming closed the laundry room door that stood between her and an arsenal of officers determined to arrest her one more time,” Joe Robertson reported Wednesday for the Kansas City Star.

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“Suddenly, in chilling body camera footage obtained after The Star filed a lawsuit, the lead Olathe police officer forced the door open and three-plus hours of standoff came to a deadly end for an emotionally troubled 26-year-old woman with a history of nothing but small, nonviolent crimes.” Olathe is a Kansas City suburb of 135,000.

“For 13 harrowing seconds, Howard stood shouting and trembling in the small room with a gun in her hand, waving it aimlessly at first but at times clearly pointing it at officers who screamed at her to drop the weapon.

“The officers opened fire and Howard pitched forward, falling dead on the concrete floor.

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“Two Olathe officers and a Johnson County deputy sheriff shot Howard in the Aug. 23 confrontation, and a review by the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office determined the shooting was justified.

“But family members who have seen the video are anguished by decisions police made to even enter the house, knowing Howard was alone, emotionally disturbed and had a handgun with her.

“Her crime was that she had not returned to a residential center as required under her probation; she had been charged with a felony of escape. A call two days later to 911 tipped police that she was at her boyfriend’s house. Distraught friends and family say she was a threat to no one. . . .”

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Editorial, Kansas City Star: Ciara Howard was killed in a police standoff. Why won’t Olathe release the body camera footage? (Dec. 25, updated Dec. 26)

New St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III delivers his inaugural address in St. Paul, Minn. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

St. Paul Paper Applauds New Mayor on Diversity

A new era began in St. Paul this week with a vigorous reminder from Mayor Melvin Carter that we exist in a long line of immigrants and refugees who found hope in St. Paul,” the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn., editorialized on Thursday.

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“This beautiful, diverse city they built for us is our ticket to the future,” Carter told a joyful audience of hundreds moments after taking the oath of office at Central High School, where he graduated in 1997.

“The new mayor, one of St. Paul’s youngest ever at 38, is the city’s first African American chief executive. He asks us to imagine the place St. Paul will be when it starts celebrating — instead of merely accepting — its diversity.

“There is power in doing so and, in making his point, Carter echoed a resonant message from his two-year campaign: that we stop approaching diversity as ‘a problem to fix.’ Instead, it should be an asset that can help St. Paul compete in a global economy. . . .”

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The editorial also said, approvingly, “Important cues about how he’ll support that vision, made public on Friday, include selection of economist Bruce Corrie to oversee the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development. Corrie — a faculty member at Concordia University in St. Paul since 1987 — is known for his focus on the economic contributions of immigrants and people who are among ethnic minorities. Included is work involved with the Little Africa and Little Mekong developments along University Avenue. . . .”

Tad Vezner, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: Understanding Mayor Carter’s reference to national anthem as ‘an ode to slavery.’

Short Takes

The painting of a nude woman in the Milwaukee Press Club is coming down. See fourth item below. (Joette Richards/Milwaukee Press Club)

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The amount of investigative journalism on US television is low (my study found that only 1 in 5 newscasts featured investigative stories), and in an era of extreme ownership consolidation, it could sink even lower,” Jesse Abdenour, a former television reporter who now teaches at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review. He also wrote, “But large corporations may not be the bogeymen they’re sometimes made out to be. Stations owned by corporations with public shareholders (often a sign of large, profit-minded companies), such as Sinclair, produced more investigative journalism than stations owned by smaller, private companies in my research. . . .”

Keith A. Owens

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Gustavo Arellano

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“‘There was no reason for her to be displayed where she was in the Newsroom Pub because it has absolutely nothing to do with news or journalism. The question was, well, why is she there anyway?’ said LaToya Dennis (pictured left), president of the Press Club and a news reporter at WUWM public radio. The painting dates to 1920. For decades, women were not allowed to join the club.

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James Harris

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Miroslava Breach Velducea

In Mexico, during “the recent oral hearing of the accused mastermind of the murder of Miroslava Breach Velducea, audio was presented allegedly linking two members of the ruling National Action Party (PAN, for [its] acronym in Spanish) with the March 23, 2017 murder of the correspondent from La Jornada,” Paola Nalvarte reported Wednesday for the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. According to the newspaper Proceso, “the recording of a 2016 conversation between Breach and Alfredo Piñera, spokesperson for the PAN, allegedly confirmed what the murdered journalist reported on in numerous articles: the collusion between drug traffickers and politicians in the state of Chihuahua, who are also allegedly implicated in Breach’s murder. . . .”

Boko [Haram] has threatened to attack some media houses in Nigeria,” Wale Odunsi reported for Nigeria’s Daily Post. “This is contained in a new video released today, Wednesday. The organisations include, Punch, Daily Sun, Vanguard, Guardian, Nation, Tribune, and National Accord. The reason for their planned attack according to the clip include, misinforming the public about their operation, lies, dishonouring their prophet, ‘Mohammad’, among others. . . .” The terrorist group carried out such a threat in 2012, leaving eight dead.

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Journal-isms is originally published on journal-isms.com. Reprinted on The Root by permission.