In Gwinnett, much of the focus during last week’s primary elections was on commission and school board races. But it was Ronda Colvin-Leary who made history.
Colvin-Leary, a local attorney, won her nonpartisan race for a spot on Gwinnett’s State Court bench, making her the first black judge elected in the history of one of Georgia’s most diverse counties — and she may also be its first person of color elected in a countywide local election.
“I’m just humbled that so many people believed in me,” Colvin-Leary said. “And I think it’s significant also because I had the support of a lot of people, I had bipartisan support. … I think why that means so much to me is that people looked past the race [of the candidates].”
Last week’s higher profile Gwinnett races included legislative primaries and a handful of Democratic candidates competing for the right to pursue the county commission and school board seats up for grabs in November’s general election.
Many of those Democrats were people of color, and the victors — Ben Ku and Marlene Fosque on the commission side, Wandy Taylor and Everton Blair for the school board — will now have the chance to become the first non-white members of their respective bodies, though, all four will still have to beat Republican opponents come fall.
Colvin-Leary has already crossed the finish line.
Because Gwinnett’s local judicial races are nonpartisan, her victory last week over opponent Lance Tyler is final and there will be no second election in November.
Gwinnett spokesman Joe Sorenson said the county has had black judges appointed to its magistrate, juvenile and recorders courts. The county’s Administrative Office of the Courts, however, confirmed that no black judge had ever been elected.
Two Gwinnett cities recently elected the county’s first-ever non-white mayors, and voters in a handful of legislative districts have sent non-white candidates to the state Capitol in recent years. But Colvin-Leary is believed to be the first black candidate ever elected in a countywide local election.
Advocates say more diverse leadership can pave the way for fresh ideas and more equitable representation.
Renita Hamilton Edmonson, whose term as president of the Gwinnett branch of the NAACP recently ended, said she could not think of “any individual who has worked harder and deserves this achievement more.”
“This is a wonderful time in the history of Gwinnett County,” she said. “The significance of this event reflects the spirit of diversity, the melting of prejudices and welcomed change.”
Gwinnett has about 920,000 residents, and less than 40 percent of them are white. Black residents make up about 28 percent of the county’s population, with Latino (21 percent) and Asian (12 percent) not far behind.
The lack of minority representation on the county level has been the subject of ire — and litigation — in recent years.
An ongoing lawsuit filed by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Georgia NAACP and others argues that the way Gwinnett’s commission and school board districts are drawn dilutes the influence of minority voters. It asks for more majority-minority districts to be drawn.
Racially charged Facebook comments posted in early 2017 by current Commissioner Tommy Hunter added fuel to the fire.
Colvin-Leary was raised in a small town outside Montgomery, Alabama, and attended college at Auburn University. She got her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville and was admitted to the Georgia bar in 2001.
She previously worked in Atlanta Municipal Court and the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s Office. In addition to the private law practice she’s run in Lawrenceville for more than a decade, Colvin-Leary currently serves as the city of Winder’s solicitor.
She is married to a Marine Corps veteran and has two daughters. They live in Snellville.
Gwinnett State Court handles misdemeanor and traffic violations that are prosecuted by the solicitor’s office, as well civil actions.
“I love State Court because, for me, I like to think that … if you come to State Court we can try to address it before something else major happens and you wind up in Superior Court for a more serious offense,” Colvin-Leary said.
Superior Court may actually be where Gwinnett’s next black elected official lands.
Last week, local defense attorney Veronica Cope was one of the top two vote-getters in a five-candidate race for an open seat on the court’s bench. She and Tracey Mason will now compete in a July 24 runoff.
Atlanta mayor to vandalizing protesters: ‘This is not a protest … this is chaos’
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday evening denounced vandalism in her city as “chaos” after demonstrations over the death of George Floyd while in in the custody of Minneapolis police turned violent.
“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos,” an impassioned Lance Bottoms said at a news conference.
“A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city,” she said. “If you want change in America, go and register to vote. … That is the change we need in this country.”
The protests had started as peaceful Friday afternoon when crowds gathered in the city’s famed Centennial Park. But by 6 p.m. ET, protesters began moving toward the front of the CNN Center, where police had gathered. Over the next few hours, the demonstration swelled as SWAT officers were called in to help with crowd control.
Later, protesters could be seen damaging CNN Center in downtown Atlanta, which is sandwiched between Philips Arena and Centennial Park.
In response, Lance Bottoms, whose name has been floated as a possible vice presidential pick for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, referenced CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who earlier Friday had been arrested — and then released about an hour later — while covering protests over Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“There was a black reporter who was arrested on camera this morning, who works for CNN. They are telling our stories, and you are disgracing their building,” she said. “We are no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We’re talking about how you’re burning police cars on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.”
Anger over the death of Floyd spilled over into multiple cities across the country after the former officer seen in a video with his knee on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder.
Demonstrators funneled their anguish in cities like New York and Washington into chants, signs, and outbreaks of violence, smashing windows and setting vehicles ablaze.
“I am a mother to four black children in America, one of who is 18 years old,” Lance Bottoms said. “Yesterday, when I heard there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do, I called my son and I said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I cannot protect you, and black boys shouldn’t be out today.’ “
“So you’re not going to out-concern me and out-care about where we are in America,” she added.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after he was pinned down by police officer Derek Chauvin. The video of the handcuffed man dying while Chauvin knelt on his neck sparked a fresh furor in the US over police treatment of African Americans. The video shared online showed Floyd pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired four police officers following the death in custody of George Floyd. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Demonstrations are being held across the US demanding justice for Floyd.
BREAKING: Cobb DA Joyette Holmes Named Prosecutor In Ahmaud Arbery Case
Georgia’s attorney general will appoint a new prosecutor in the Ahmaud Arbery case.
Attorney General Chris Carr will name Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes to take over the case, Belcher learned.
Belcher spoke to Holmes, who did not deny it but instead just referred him to the current special prosecutor, Thomas Durden.
The official announcement is expected later today, Belcher said.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed by a father and son as he jogged through their Glynn County neighborhood back in February. A video shot on a cellphone showed the confrontation between Arbery and the McMichaels after they confronted him with guns. It took 74 days for the McMichaels to be arrested and charged for Arbery’s death.
The McMichaels say that they suspected Arbery had broken into a home nearby that is under construction. Authorities said the McMichaels, thinking he was a burglary suspect, pursued him.
Arbery was shot and killed moments later.
BLACK MUSIC HONORS 2019
CENTRAL CITY PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS THE 2019 BLACK MUSIC HONORS IN A NEW CITY AND VENUE
XSCAPE, FREDDIE JACKSON, YOLANDA ADAMS AND ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT TO RECEIVE BLACK MUSIC HONORS RECOGNITION
RICKEY SMILEY AND LETOYA LUCKETT RETURN AS HOSTS OF TELEVISION SPECIAL
CHICAGO, IL. – July 26, 2019 – Chicago based television production company Central City Productions announces the 2019 Black Music Honors television taping set to take place on Thursday, September 5th at The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, GA. During this star-studded two-hour television special, Central City Productions (CCP) will honor artists and musicians who have influenced and made significant contributions to American music.
The honorees for this year’s Black Music Honors include Xscape who will receive the Urban Music Icon Award for the platinum selling quartet group’s 25 years in the industry. Yolanda Adams will receive the Gospel Music Icon Award. Culturally-conscience eclectic group, Arrested Development and chart-topping crooner, Freddie Jackson, whose career has spanned over 33 years, will also be honored.
“The vision behind the Black Music Honors is to recognize the trailblazers in African American music who have paved the way for the artists of today. Many of these artists have never received their much-deserved recognition,” stated Founder and Executive Producer, Don Jackson.
Television and radio personality Rickey Smiley and Grammy® Award-winner and actress LeToya Luckett return as co-hosts of the show, which is set to air in broadcast syndication Sept. 14 – October 20, 2019. State Farm returns as the show’s title sponsor.
The epic event will be held at The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre located at 2800 Cobb Galleria Pkwy, Atlanta, GA 30339. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the show taping at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at: blackmusichonors.com and ticketmaster.com
The 4th Annual Black Music Honors show is Executive Produced by Don Jackson, with Jennifer J. Jackson serving as Producer and Michael A. Johnson as Producer and Director.
For more information on Black Music Honors, please visit www.blackmusichonors.com and connect on social media@blackmusichonors #BMH2019 and #BlackMusicMatters.