Day: October 27, 2019

Ground-breaking Canadian black lawyer to finally be honoured in New Brunswick

FREDERICTON — Abraham Beverley Walker is considered the first Canadian-born black lawyer, but a New Brunswick historian says Walker’s accomplishments have been all but forgotten by history.

That’s about to change — Walker will be honoured posthumously with the Order of New Brunswick this week in Fredericton.

“This is to right a wrong,” said historian Peter Little. “I think it was a terrible injustice how he was treated. He was alive and then swept into the dust bin of history after he died.”

Little had never heard of Walker until he was asked to do some research for the New Brunswick Black History Society.

He learned that Walker was born near Saint John, N.B. in August 1851, and educated locally before studying law at the National University Law School in Washington D.C.  

Walker became an attorney of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick in 1881 and was called to the bar the following year.

Little said Walker later took some courses at the Saint John Law School, becoming the first student of colour to enrol.

Walker opened a law practice in Saint John but he faced much racism, making it hard to get clients, and the practice foundered after just a few years.

The local black community circulated a petition in 1896 or 1897 to get Walker the designation of Queen’s Counsel.

“He was told that he would be getting it but when the local white lawyers found about it, they complained to the government and said ‘If you give him that designation then you can take ours back,’ — so he was dropped off the list,” Little said.

He said Walker was later promised designation of King’s Counsel, but that also didn’t happen.

Little said there were many examples of how white lawyers resented him. In one instance, there was a big gala for the law society and every lawyer in the city was invited except Abraham Walker.

“He had a tough row to hoe,” Little said. “He would be the only New Brunswick black lawyer for another for 122 years.”

After closing his practice, Walker went to Atlanta for a few years and then returned to Saint John to serve as the law society librarian.

He also published a magazine called “Neith.” Five editions were printed.

But Walker’s time in Atlanta had fuelled an interest in the civil rights movement and he started lecturing all over North America.

“He was an extremely intelligent man. He spoke five languages fluently and said he had a passing knowledge in four others,” Little said.  

Abraham Walker died of tuberculosis in 1909, just shy of turning 60 years old.

Little began searching for any family of Walker two-and-a-half years ago, learning that while Walker had five children, four of them died at a young age.

That search hit a dead-end until just a matter of weeks ago when Little received a phone call from Debbie Little (no relation to Peter) who is Walker’s granddaughter and lives in Michigan.

She will be making the trek to New Brunswick with her son to attend the investiture ceremony on Wednesday for Walker and nine others.

Established in December 2000, the Order of New Brunswick is the highest honour of the Province of New Brunswick. It recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the social, cultural or economic well-being of New Brunswick and its residents.

Peter Little said while he will be accepting the award on behalf of Walker, he plans to then give it to the family where it belongs.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2019.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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Lawsuit: Southwest pilots streamed video from bathroom cam

PHOENIX — A lawsuit filed against Southwest Airlines by a flight attendant alleges pilots on a 2017 flight had an iPad streaming video from a hidden camera in a bathroom in one of the airline’s jets.

The lawsuit alleges flight attendant Renee Steinaker saw an iPad streaming video from the plane’s forward bathroom when she entered the cockpit to be the required second person in the cockpit when the pilot left to use the bathroom about 2.5 hours into a Feb. 27, 2017, flight to Phoenix from Pittsburgh.

According to the suit, Steinaker saw the pilot in the streaming video on the iPad and the co-pilot “with a panicked look on his face” acknowledged that the iPad was streaming from a camera in the bathroom but asserted it was a “new security and top-secret security measure installed in all of Southwest’s Boeing 737-800 planes.”

The suit said Steinaker took a cellphone photo of the iPad video, provided the photo with a report to Southwest management and was warned by a supervisor to not tell anybody about the incident.

According to the suit, Steinaker was warned, “if this got out, if this went public, no one, I mean no one, would ever fly our airline again.”

Court filings by attorneys for Dallas-based Southwest and the two pilots denied the livestreaming allegations, and Southwest issued a brief statement Saturday saying it would not comment in detail on the suit but denied placing cameras in the lavatories in aircraft.

“The safety and security of our employees and customers is Southwest’s uncompromising priority,” the statement said.

The suit against Southwest and the two pilots was announced Saturday by attorneys for Steinaker and her husband, also a Southwest flight attendant.

The suit was originally filed on behalf of the Steinakers, who live in metro Phoenix, in an Arizona state court in October 2018 and was moved in late August to federal court in Phoenix.

An attorney for the couple, Ronald L. M. Goldman, said the alleged livestreaming would compromise safety by distracting crew members and intrude on the privacy of those using the bathroom.

“The cockpit of a commercial airliner is not a playground for peeping toms,” Goldman said in a statement.

An initial version of the suit alleged that both spouses experienced discrimination, harassment and retaliation in connection with Renee Steinaker’s reporting of the in-flight incident.

A later version of the suit didn’t include those allegations but said they would be restored if the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approved suing on those allegations.

No trial date has been set for the suit, which seeks specified awards based on various damages claims.

Paul Davenport, The Associated Press

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Prince’s anticipated, posthumous memoir is ready for fans

Panic, joy, shock: Dan Piepenbring felt them all when Prince plucked him to collaborate on his first memoir, followed by more shock and profound sadness at news of the superstar’s death while the book was in its early stages.

Though the project was thrown into chaos when Prince died on April 21, 2016, of an accidental drug overdose, his estate ultimately decided to press on, allowing Piepenbring and his publishing team free access to the pieces of his life left behind at his beloved Paisley Park, including the contents of his vault.

Now, the highly anticipated collaboration, “The Beautiful Ones,” is ready for Prince fans to read as many continue to mourn, propelling the 33-year-old journalist into the spotlight to explain how he sorted it all out.

“There was a sense even from the start that it couldn’t really be happening,” Piepenbring told The Associated Press of his involvement. “It felt very surreal. There was also just a sense of joy, I think, at the possibility of meeting someone that I held in such high regard, someone whose music had been the soundtrack to the better part of my youth.”

The book out Tuesday from Spiegel & Grau includes no bombshells, though Prince very much wanted to provide some, and a mere 28 memoir pages written in his elegant script and quirky style, replacing the word “I” with a drawing of a human orb, for instance. All told, Piepenbring spent 12 to 15 hours face-to-face with Prince in Minneapolis, New York and on tour in Melbourne.

Their last conversation was just four days before Prince died. It was focused on his parents and their conflicting influences in his life. His father, John L. Nelson, was a disciplined, God-fearing jazz musician with an explosive temper. His mother, Mattie Della Shaw, was a beautiful, fun-loving party girl with a stubborn, irrational streak _ and a sneaky flair, as Prince wrote:

“She would spend up what little $ the family had 4 survival on partying with her friends, then trespass in2 my bedroom, ‘borrow’ my personal $ that eye’d gotten from babysitting local kids, & then chastise me 4 even questioning her regarding the broken promises she made 2 pay me back.”

The tumultuous nature of his parents’ relationship had a lasting impact.

“The wound of Ur parents fighting is chilling when U’re a child,” Prince wrote. “If it happens 2 become physical, it can be soul-crushing.”

Their conflicts, divorce when he was 7 and the dual impact on Prince and his work is the book’s prevailing theme.

“So much of his writing is about division in some way and the fight to make oneself whole again,” Piepenbring said. “There’s this kind of brokenness that he’s always working to repair.”

Prince writes that his first memory was his mother’s eyes, describing her habit of throwing conspiratorial winks his way.

“Sometimes when my father wasn’t playing piano he’d say something 2 my mother & she would wink at me. She never told me what it meant and sometimes it would be accompanied by a gentle caress of her hand 2 my face. But eye am quite sure now this is the birth of my physical imagination.”

Prince had big ideas for the book, considering at one time a “how to” on making it in the music business without selling your soul. At another point, he suggested that he and Piepenbring figure out a way to end racism. At still another, he wanted to focus on the importance of creative freedom.

“I think he was really in the process of excavating his past with a level of detail and specificity that maybe he had avoided before,” Piepenbring said. “He had come to the realization that he really was in many ways the sum of his mother and father and they were the, sort of, two poles of his being.”

Prince wrote on other subjects as well, including puberty (his stepfather took him to R-rated movies at a drive-in as a stand-in for the birds and bees talk), the blackouts and seizures he had as a child and his first kiss, with a girl of just 5 or 6. They’d play house.

Piepenbring wrote a lengthy introduction explaining his encounters with Prince and how the book was completed. He wasn’t allowed to take notes during their first meeting so he was forced to reconstruct the conversation. Some of their chats are printed as marginalia in the book. There’s an abundance of hand-drawn childhood doodles and cartoons, along with lyrics Prince often wrote on whatever was handy, including a brown paper bag.

There’s a photo album Piepenbring unearthed at Paisley Park that a sleepless Prince decided to put together in 1977 at age 19, only days from completing his debut album, “For You.” With witty remarks written in pencil, Prince sits on the hood of his first car in one shot. In another, he snapped his first paycheque from Warner Bros.

There’s also an early outline he wrote for the 1984 film “Purple Rain” with an even darker story line than the one that made it onto screens. The film, based loosely on his life, won Prince an Oscar for best original sound score. In the 1982 treatment, “The Kid” character Prince plays is a diagnosed schizophrenic who as a child watches his mother shoot his father dead, then turns the gun on herself.

Prince had envisioned playing both his mother and father in flashback scenes. The finished film, not written by Prince, involves a suicide attempt with a gun that the father survives.

Many of the photos in the book are familiar to hardcore fans and it includes a heavy dose of previously published interviews with Prince. From the start, it was clear to Piepenbring that Prince envisioned him as something more than a ghostwriter.

Prince was looking for a second voice to bring his vision alive in print, almost “like a sounding board,” said Piepenbring, who is based in New York and was working for Paris Review when, at age 29, he was chosen for the book.

As for what might have been, Piepenbring said, “I think we would have gotten more of his story than we’ve ever seen, and I think we would have gotten not just this book but a number of books from him. He told me that he wanted to write a lot of books, and I really think he was serious about that.”

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