Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Scott WyKoff, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5
The National Naval Officers Association celebrated its 50th anniversary at The Westin Annapolis last week.
Founded in 1972 in Annapolis, the National Naval Officers Association supports the Navy and other sea services in recruiting, retraining and developing a diverse corps. Led by new president and retired Rear Admiral Cedric Pringle, the association works closely with minority communities and educational institutions.
Upwards of 500 attended the conference of current and retired Naval officers. Pringle said the association played a huge role in his career.
"It's extremely cool," Pringle said. "I tell you what in a way has been a key part of not only my career as a retired Navy admiral, but also literally thousands of others who stood on the shoulders of those who founded it in 1972 right here in Annapolis and still continue to benefit from it every single day."
LISTEN: Rear Admiral Cedric Pringle speaks with WBAL NewsRadio's Scott Wykoff
Navy Commander and former association president, Denise McCallaCreary, was the first woman to be elected president of the National Naval Officers Association in the organization's history. She has been with the association since 1982.
"When I joined the National Naval Officers Association in 1982, it was literally my lifeline that helped me through the mentorship and professional training to get me to the rank I am," McCallaCreary said. "So it was an honor to serve I feel like I'm giving back to the association and all that they gave me and pretty much contributed to the quality of life I'm living."
LISTEN: Navy Commander Denise McCallaCreary, speaks with WBAL NewsRadio's Scott Wykoff
Since its inception, the National Naval Officers Association has been supported by the US Naval Academy.
Johnny Pippins has served 26 years of a 30-year prison sentence for shooting and killing a man he tried to rob with his brother and others in Rock Island in 1996.
He now wants to be a free man, so he can pursue his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Iowa, which has offered him a full scholarship.
But Pippins, now 52, can't pursue his doctorate — the program has to be completed in person — unless Gov. J.B. Pritzker grants him clemency and an early release.
We urge the governor to strongly consider the request. Time is running out. Pippins’ story of redemption — told in a story published by WBEZ in partnership with the nonprofit newsroom Open Campus — is a testament to the power of education to transform prisoners willing to put in the work of turning their lives around.
It’s unclear whether Pritzker will move forward with Pippins’ application for clemency, and his office hadn't returned our call Monday to tell us what he has planned. But the clock is ticking, since the program Pippins has been accepted into starts Aug. 22, and he cannot ask the university for an extension.
Meanwhile, clemency hearings in Illinois were put on hold earlier this year after state senators rejected two of Pritzker’s nominees to the Prisoner Review Board. The governor has also faced backlash for other pardons involving people who were charged with serious crimes.
But if any prisoner has a solid argument for being released, it seems to us, it’s Pippins. He earned his undergraduate degree at Adams State University and a master's degree in statistical science from the University of Idaho while he was behind bars.
Pippins loved studying as a child. But growing up with an abusive father and in a family that moved often, he got lured into a life of crime. In prison, he turned back to education and earned the free ride for a Ph.D. program — not an easy feat for anyone, let alone an inmate.
Pippins has expressed remorse for his crime, and murder and its consequences should never be taken lightly. The feelings of the victim’s family must also be taken into consideration.
But what also needs to be taken into account is the Rock Island County state's attorney has not filed an objection to Pippins’ clemency petition. Pippins also has the backing of correctional officers and a number of professors.
Men and women who leave prison are expected to be productive members of society, which is a challenge with a criminal record and very little, if any, professional experience. Pippins is on his way to meeting that challenge.
What he needs is a chance to finish.
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The Hanover NAACP is asking the county board of supervisors to reconsider the appointment of school board members who the organization says have made comments and taken actions opposed to the school division’s goals and mission.
In a Monday open letter, the chapter also asked the supervisors, along with the school board, to participate in professional development instruction in diversity, equity and inclusion related to public education.
Hanover is one of a handful of localities in Virginia where school board members are appointed rather than elected. Each board member is appointed by one of the seven county supervisors and serves a four-year term.
“A new direction is needed,” said Patricia Hunter-Jordan, president of the Hanover NAACP, in the Monday letter.
“Hanover County’s future will be brighter and more successful with a school division whose board exemplifies and prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and equity,” she wrote.
The NAACP chapter claimed that certain members of the school board “failed to show respect and understanding of true and inclusive American and Hanover history, and latest current events as they relate to a diverse population, specifically Black and brown students,” “publicly shared false health information” and showed “unwillingness to separate religion from division policy decisions and interactions with the public.”
The chapter pointed in particular to the school board advocating for the removal from school libraries of a book by a Black author that described the experiences of Black Americans and its legal and policy consultation with two anti-LGBTQ groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Foundation.
The organization also said it was concerned with the “non-transparent” appointment process, specifically with the appointment of School Board Member John Redd of the Mechanicsville District, who declined to comment on the chapter’s claims to the Virginia Mercury.
Redd previously served on the school board in the early 1980s before being appointed with a 5-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors last year.
Monday’s open letter said that emails obtained through a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request “show that Mr. Redd’s motivation to seek the seat was in part sparked by his anger over the name changes” made to division schools in 2020.
In that year, the Hanover School Board renamed two schools formerly known as Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School to Mechanicsville and Bell Creek, respectively, as part of a broader push across the state to rename public institutions honoring Confederate officers.
The chapter claimed that Redd is “unwilling or unable to understand the harm inflicted by the schools’ original names” and is determined to “punish the community for his hurt feelings through petty agitation over school names in the future.”
Additionally, the chapter claimed the emails show Redd’s “contempt and harsh religion-based judgment toward not only those who seek social justice and inclusive, honest history instruction … but also toward members of the LGBTQ community, with special venom directed at transgender students.”
The Hanover School Board is currently facing a lawsuit for failing to adopt policies protecting transgender students in accordance with state law and the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies.
Redd was not the only school board member identified in the Monday letter. The Hanover NAACP also claimed that School Board Chair John Axselle III referred to Black people as “colored people” in a 2021 meeting with a parent, opposed students practicing stories from diverse perspectives and did not see a benefit in diversifying teaching staff to increase minority representation.
Axselle did not immediately respond for comment.Hanover NAACP Open Letter HCPS Board H BoS