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Woman Who Could Have Been Released for $30 Dies After Spending 150 Days in Custody

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Janice Dotson-Stephens, a 61-year old Black woman, died while in custody five months after being arrested for misdemeanor charges, in which she could have been released on bond for only $30. Her family, who didn’t know that she had been in jail until she died, is suing the authorities involved, claiming that Dotson-Stephens could not have been jailed in the first place because she is mentally ill.

Dotson-Stephens was arrested on a criminal trespass charge after consistently telling the police that she wouldn’t leave the Mt. Zion elder community at San Antonio on July 17. According to a police report, she told the officers that the only place she would go is the jail. The officers did so and booked her into the Bexar County Jail.

Her bail was set to $300, and because most bail bond companies would only require at least 10 percent payment to be bailed out, she could have been released for just $30. But she died five months after her arrest. The medical examiner’s office stated that she died of natural causes.

“The question is, ‘What did you do to treat her?” said Les Sachanowicz, the attorney representing the family. “Did you give her the standard of health care that the community would have?”

Dotson-Stephens’ family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Bexar County, Bexar County Pre-trial Services, and the University Health System.

“We’re convinced that their mom was ignored to death, and what I mean by that is there is a culture of deliberate indifference for her and other inmates in the pre-trial system and at the Bexar County Jail,” Sachanowicz said.

Brigette Lott, Dotson-Stephens daughter, said her mother suffered from a long history of mental illness including severe mood disorder and schizophrenia. She argued that her mother could have been brought to a mental health institution rather than the jail after the arrest.

“It was absolutely normal that my mom would just leave and we might not hear from her for a long time,” Lott told San Antonio Express-News. “That was normal for us. We were under the assumption that it was a regular cycle. She’ll get in trouble, then she’ll get better, then we’ll start the cycle all over again.”

Meanwhile, Bexar County officials claim that they weren’t informed of the mental health issues of Dotson-Stephens and said she was given proper care during her imprisonment.

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Be Counted and Be Heard Comedy Show

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Be Counted and Be Heard Comedy Show to encourage African Americans in our community to get counted in the 2020 Census

The Dream Big Scholarship Fund, in collaboration with the San Antonio/Bexar County Complete Count Committee, will host the Be Counted and Be Heard Comedy Show this Sunday, Sept. 27, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the AT&T Center parking lot. The goal of the comedy show will be to encourage African American residents of San Antonio and Bexar County to respond to the 2020 Census before next week’s deadline on Sept. 30.   

“It’s imperative that the African American community understand the impact that they can make by letting their voices be heard and getting counted in the 2020 census is one way to be heard,” stated Michele Thomas founder of the Dream Big Scholarship Fund. 

The show’s program will be hosted by 25-year United States Army Combat veteran and aspiring gospel singer Thomas B. Bryant. The program  will feature “Funniest Person in South Texas” finalist, Comedian Clifton Simmons. Headlining the comedy show will be Comedian Marcus D. Wiley from the Yolanda Adams Morning Show. While providing entertainment, these trusted voices will share information about why completing the 2020 Census is important to our communities.   

Multiple organizations such as The 100 Black Men of San Antonio, Psi Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. have pledged their support and resources to the event to ensure a complete count of the community.

The open-air event will be held in Parking Lot 3 at the AT&T Center. To ensure physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19, all activities will allow participants to stay in their vehicles. Attendees can enjoy the comedy show from the comfort and safety of their cars, as well as fill out the census form on their own mobile device or on tablets which volunteers will bring to each vehicle.  

The event will be live-streamed on Dream Big Scholarship Fund’s Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/dreambigscholarshipfund) and participants can complete the questionnaire at home and register to win gift card prizes. The census can be completed online at my2020census.gov or by calling 1.844.330.2020. Time is running out, be heard and get counted now!

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Sickle Cell Awareness Month

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September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, designated by Congress to help focus attention on the need for research and treatment of sickle cell disease.

SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.

In the United States

The exact number of people living with SCD in the U.S. is unknown. Working with partners, the CDC supports projects to learn about the number of people living with SCD to better understand how the disease impacts their health.

It is estimated that:

  • SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
  • About 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT)

SCDAA’s theme for this year is Sickle Cell Matters. Sickle Cell Awareness Month Flyers, Myths & Facts Sheet, Calendar of Events as well as other vital information can be found by visiting https://www.sicklecelldisease.org/ People can share in awareness efforts or join SCDAA at one of the many great events to support sickle cell awareness!

Everyone is encouraged to be a part of this national effort to increase awareness about sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait during the month of September. Individuals and organizations can join the efforts to bring attention to sickle cell disease by engaging elected officials for proclamations, hosting awareness events, distributing educational information to dispel the myths about sickle cell disease, and lighting public spaces, buildings and landmarks red (burgundy)!

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Another Blow Dealt: Charges Not Directly Linked To Victim Breonna Taylor

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Residents of Louisville, Kentucky along with spectators across the world have waited for more than six months with anticipation for the verdict in the Breonna Taylor case. Anticipation has been boiling so much so that city and state officials began preparing days ago for uncertainty in the event that protests and riots could potentially break out once the verdict was read. The Kentucky National Guard and state police were called in and a 72-hour countywide curfew has been enacted. Once again there is further division, unrest, and lack of trust in another American city as clashes have already began to erupt in the streets of Louisville.

The verdict is in and the long-awaited grand jury charges are as follows. Only one former police officer, Brett Hankinson, was indicted on three felony counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. In a nutshell, the other two officers will face no charges and the charges Hankinson faces are not directly related to the wrongful death of Breonna Taylor, but rather his reckless action of “wantonly shooting a gun” into an apartment (not Breonna’s). First-degree wanton endangerment is a Class D felony, the lowest of four classes of felonies, the maximum sentence is five years; the minimum is one year.

Last week an announcement was made by the city of Louisville that a $12 million settlement had been reached with the family of Breonna Taylor. Continued prayers for the family of Breonna Taylor and the city of Louisville.

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