Derek Chauvin’s Trial

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer 

AP/Derek Dovarganes

George Floyd died on May 25, 2020 after being suffocated by a Minnesota police officer. The former officer who pinned him down, Derek Chauvin, is now on trial. 

Eleven months after the death of George Floyd, Derek Chauvin is facing second and third degree murder, and manslaughter charges for Floyd’s death.

During the trial, Chauvin, who is white, was described by his former coworkers as awkward and often having a propensity to overreact. The trial also revealed that Chauvin was previously involved in two other circumstances in which he killed suspects. 

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, an officer in the Minneapolis police department said Chauvin’s actions were a use of deadly force and unnecessary. One paramedic, Derek Smith, testified that there was no pulse when police officers were still on top of Floyd. 

A pulmonologist, Dr. Martin J. Tobin gave a detailed testimony that showed that Floyd died from the pressure of Chauvin’s knee on his neck. 

“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died”, says Tobin. 

Attorneys of Mr. Chauvin are attempting to use Floyd’s previous drug use as an explanation for his death. However, prosecutors argued that it was unlikely that he died of an overdose as he had built up a high tolerance for drugs.

Additionally, the surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department, Dr. Bill Smock, testified that there was no evidence of an overdose. Smock also said that officers should have started with C.P.R. immediately after arriving at the scene. 

“It is so disrespectful to blame his death on drugs when we saw what happened,” said Monae Fletcher, a freshman biology major. “In the trial of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, they did the same thing and tried to deflect onto their past lives as a reason for their death. There’s no excuse. We saw what happened.” 

Witnesses testified that they are haunted by what they saw the day of Floyd’s death. Floyd’s girlfriend told stories to the jury of their loving relationship and how greatly he played his role as a partner and father. 

After Floyd’s death, millions held protests across the country against police brutality. Whatever the outcome of the trial, a reaction from the masses is expected.

“If Chauvin is not found guilty, there is going to be an even bigger upheaval of riots than before,” says Leah Johnson, a strategic communications major at HU. “We are fed up with the same thing happening and having to hold hope that justice will be served.”

Recent Events Bring Back Old Memories for Hampton Institute Graduates

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

AP/Rob Ostermaier

Fifty years ago, students at what was then known as Hampton Institute encountered a situation eerily similar to the scenario faced by current students. It was May 1971, and after months of on-campus student protests, the institute’s president, Dr. Roy Hudson, announced that the campus would be closing for the rest of the school year.  However, this was not the only stipulation mentioned in the letter. The annual commencement that the class of 1971 had eagerly begun preparing to participate in would be cancelled. 

The 150th Hampton University Commencement scheduled for May 9, 2021 would be the “golden anniversary” of the class of 1971, signifying 50 years as Hampton Alumni. However, in an ironic turn of events, the in-person commencement has also been cancelled in favor of a virtual ceremony. 

Today, Zarina Sparling is a retired healthcare insurance executive who lives in Holly Springs, NC. But in 1971, she was one of  approximately 600 seniors who were given the unexpected instructions to immediately leave the waterside campus for the final time as undergraduate students. 

“There was a lot of unrest around the campus and around the city of Hampton, so I think that it kind of got out of hand,” Sparling said. “The administration decided that for the safety of all, they were going to shut down the school, which caught us all by surprise.”

The events of the 1970 – 1971 school year that culminated in the spring semester’s abrupt end have long been a part of Hampton’s lore. Sparling recalls a slew of on-campus protests with the purpose of pressuring administration into making more progressive changes. 

A WAVY 10 news report from 1981 describes the protests as being one of numerous protests taking place on college campuses in response to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia. Both recount fires in campus buildings allegedly set by students, and an attempted siege of the administration building. 

Fortunately for the class of 1971, a new administration led by Dr. Harvey would formally invite the class to participate in the 1981 commencement ceremony. The news clip taken from the WAVY 10 archives notes that in a class of approximately 600 graduates, only around 100 returned to walk across the stage a decade later. A member of the 1971 class interviewed at the time also mentions that “two or three” classmates were already deceased. 

Similar concessions for a later in-person ceremony have been offered to the class of 2021. In a March 24 letter from the Committee on Ceremonial Occasions, the university agreed to “explore hosting an opportunity for graduates to return to campus to commemorate graduation and their Hampton experience,”  after the COVID-19 infection rate has reasonably subsided. 

However, senior students have still expressed disappointment in not having a variation of a traditional ceremony. 

  “We all worked so hard to get to this moment, and it hurts that we can’t celebrate it the way we intended,” said Selena Roberts, a senior strategic communications major. “Senior year is full of many milestones that the class of 2021 did not have the chance to enjoy, and now graduation is added to that list.”

 Sparling is quick to express that while not having a commencement was unfortunate, it was not detrimental to her overall Hampton experience. Still, many of her memories echo sentiments expressed by this year’s graduates. 

“You never got to say goodbye to anybody, you didn’t have that farewell kind of stuff that usually takes place during graduation week.”

Much has happened in the half-century since the class of 1971’s final year came to a sudden end. Class sizes have significantly grown, new buildings have been erected, and the famed Hampton Institute is now the nationally-renowned Hampton University. Recent events have revealed a unique bond shared between Hamptonians of the past and present, and brought with it a familiar lesson that time often runs out more quickly than anticipated.

Virginia Becomes the 4th State to Ban Animal-Tested Cosmetics

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

An increasing number of states in the country are prohibiting animal-tested cosmetics. Virginia is the latest to join the list that already includes California, Nevada, and Illinois. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Humane Cosmetics Act into law on March 16, formally prohibiting cosmetics manufacturers from “conducting or contracting for cosmetic animal testing [within the state]” and selling animal-tested products. The law will go in effect in January of 2022. 

This isn’t the first time the Virginia legislature has taken steps to ban animal research in favor of humane alternatives. In 2018, Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko’s bill was signed into law, prohibiting state research facilities from using animals to test cosmetics and household goods when a valid alternative test method is available.

Several other states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New York, may also pass similar laws in the future, according to ABC News. The rise in state-specific anti-animal testing legislation is expected to be part of a more significant state-by-state effort.

“This is a great move for Virginia because this can spark a national change in the cosmetics industry,” said Sierra Williams, a senior economics major. “Brands have already begun shifting to being cruelty-free, so maybe Virginia’s ban may be what pushes for a more environmentally conscious society.” 

The Humane Cosmetics Act’s passing is the second time in recent years that Virginia legislators have been at the forefront of national legislation for animal testing. Virginia Congressman, Jim Moran, sponsored the first federal Humane Cosmetics Act in 2013. Moran’s successor, Congressman Don Beyer, has championed the law with bipartisan support.

Monica Engebretson, Head of Public Affairs of the North American division of Cruelty-Free International believes that Virginia’s law will help pass the law at a federal level.

“We are delighted that Virginia has continued to be a national leader in ending animal testing for cosmetics,” said Engebretson. “This is a significant step not just for Virginia but for the entire US, as history has shown that state activity leads to changes at the federal level.”

Vaccine Rollout Continues for Americans, but Questions Still Linger

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Damien Dovargnes/AP

While one’s younger years are not usually a time full of stress, the current health crisis has changed that, and teenagers and young adults around the world are struggling. The pandemic has raised stress factors such as uncertainty about the future, financial hardships, and safety concerns.

 Sixty-three percent of 18-to-24-year old’s have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of those admit to increased substance use, and 25 percent reported that they have seriously considered suicide, according to the CDC. 

Hampton’s campus has been closed to students since March 2020. Many students complain that they are struggling with online learning and an altered college experience.

Freshman Hampton students who have never lived on campus feel as if they have not had a real college experience. 

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the class of 2024’s social life. We lack a class bond as most of us have never met in person,” said Oluade Swan, a freshman strategic communications major. “It feels as if stepping on campus has become a far-fetched dream.” 

Senior Hampton students are struggling in accepting the fact that their time in college will not end traditionally. 100 days, a Hampton tradition, and a graduation ceremony are just some of the thing’s seniors are not experiencing as usual. 

“I’ve been waiting for the moment I would become a senior in college,” says Reana Garcia, a senior biology major. “I am sad not only because the end is near but because of all the different events that would take place. I’ve been robbed of that experience and can never get it back.”

College students of color have been more vulnerable to the negative effects of the pandemic as college attendance among Black students dropped 8 percent during the summer of 2020, compared to 2019, according to the first “Stay Informed” report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Additionally, 80 percent of college students reported that COVID-19 had negatively affected their mental health. 

While it is a stressful and anxious time, many students are choosing to be positive and make the best of their current situation. Students look forward to being able to step back on Hampton’s campus in the fall and feel some type of normalcy. 

“This pandemic has made me realize that I should never take life for granted. My college experience has been delayed but it’s taught me that good things may take time. I cannot wait to meet my classmates in the fall,” says Janiya Pearson, freshman class President.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Student’s Mental Health and College Experience

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

While one’s younger years are not usually a time full of stress, the current health crisis has changed that, and teenagers and young adults around the world are struggling. The pandemic has raised stress factors such as uncertainty about the future, financial hardships, and safety concerns.

 Sixty-three percent of 18-to-24-year old’s have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of those admit to increased substance use, and 25 percent reported that they have seriously considered suicide, according to the CDC. 

Hampton’s campus has been closed to students since March 2020. Many students complain that they are struggling with online learning and an altered college experience.

Freshman Hampton students who have never lived on campus feel as if they have not had a real college experience. 

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the class of 2024’s social life. We lack a class bond as most of us have never met in person,” said Oluade Swan, a freshman strategic communications major. “It feels as if stepping on campus has become a far-fetched dream.” 

Senior Hampton students are struggling in accepting the fact that their time in college will not end traditionally. 100 days, a Hampton tradition, and a graduation ceremony are just some of the thing’s seniors are not experiencing as usual. 

“I’ve been waiting for the moment I would become a senior in college,” says Reana Garcia, a senior biology major. “I am sad not only because the end is near but because of all the different events that would take place. I’ve been robbed of that experience and can never get it back.”

College students of color have been more vulnerable to the negative effects of the pandemic as college attendance among Black students dropped 8 percent during the summer of 2020, compared to 2019, according to the first “Stay Informed” report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Additionally, 80 percent of college students reported that COVID-19 had negatively affected their mental health. 

While it is a stressful and anxious time, many students are choosing to be positive and make the best of their current situation. Students look forward to being able to step back on Hampton’s campus in the fall and feel some type of normalcy. 

“This pandemic has made me realize that I should never take life for granted. My college experience has been delayed but it’s taught me that good things may take time. I cannot wait to meet my classmates in the fall,” says Janiya Pearson, freshman class President.

Vaccine Rollout Continues for Americans, but Questions Still Linger

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Photo: Damien Dovargnes/AP

After previously promising that all Americans would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of summer, President Biden announced new directives to the public concerning the national vaccine rollout during a March 12 prime-time address to the nation, the first of his presidency. 

Biden’s directions were given in conjunction with a timeline for all states to follow. By May 1, all adults should be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. This differs from the current eligibility guidelines that vary by state but can best be described as a priority system where only the most vulnerable Americans are allowed to receive the vaccine. 

By July 4, President Biden intends for the country to be “closer to normal,” with the vast majority of Americans having received the vaccine. 

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic one year ago, over 500,000 Americans have died from the virus’ complications. 

However, recent data has shown that the United States is potentially nearing the end of the pandemic. 

As of March 12, approximately 2.3 million doses of the vaccine are being administered each day, and about 35 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times

Many young adults have been ineligible for the vaccine depending on their state of residence. However, the pandemic has continued to have a great impact on the daily lives and decisions of both young people and college students. 

Hampton University first began holding fully virtual classes in March of 2020 and has continued to do so for the 2020-21 school year. 

While most students agree on wanting to return to Hampton’s campus in the future, their opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine varies. 

Nicole Brown, a senior marketing major from Lynchburg, VA spends her days at home interning for a prominent technology company but was able to get the vaccine in February. 

According to Brown, her experience receiving the vaccine was positive.

“For my first shot I didn’t feel any serious effects,” Brown said, “But for my second shot, I felt soreness in my arm.” 

Other Hampton University students have not been so optimistic. 

Trevor Hutson, a senior entrepreneurship major from Brooklyn, New York, works part-time at a funeral home in the Hampton area and is frequently in contact with the public. However, he has still chosen not to receive the vaccine. 

“I’ve been offered [the vaccine] but I wanted to see what the effects would be on others before taking it,” Hutson said. 

Similarly, Eddy Baldwin, a senior sociology major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is hesitant to receive the vaccine due to possible unknown side effects. 

“The vaccines are being distributed on Emergency terms, so I’m cautious that there hasn’t been a thorough review or testing of the vaccines’ effects long-term,” Baldwin said. 

While Hampton’s graduating seniors can continue to weigh their vaccine options, continuing students have less time to decide. On March 11, the University announced that starting this summer, the campus would re-open for continuing and new students— after they show proof of vaccination.

COVID-19 One Year Later: Virginia Marks Anniversary of Virus Trace

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

Hampton, VA- This week marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Virginia.

Since then, about 553,000 Virginians, including over 153,000 in Northern Virginia, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 43,000 Virginians have been admitted, treated, and released due to virus symptoms. In addition, the epidemic has claimed the lives of over 7,000 Virginians, including over 1,700 in Northern Virginia.

At the start of the pandemic, Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials advised washing your hands and avoiding touching your face. Mask mandates hadn’t yet been enacted and nationwide shutdowns were on the cusp of our consciousness. 

“This was unrelenting,” Gov. Northam said. “We were asked to fight a biological war without any supplies and without any guidance.”

Virginia experienced its first coronavirus case in March 2020, and due to the unknown ramifications of the virus, COVID-19 began to spread.

“I never expected quarantining to be a part of our reality,” said Hailey Keys, a Norfolk State University pre-nursing major. “When my family and I first got in contact with the virus, it was like the world was stuck on pause. It feels like a never ending cycle of loss and I’m ready for it to end.”

According to Gov. Northam, one of the many frustrating problems at the beginning of COVID-19 tracing had to do with testing. There were few tests available that had to be sent off to be analyzed by the CDC.

“The initial lack of resources in the state and nation created a chaotic situation. We used what was available through science and data,” Northam said. 

Now, Virginia is focusing its efforts on vaccine rollout.

According to the health department’s vaccine dashboard, Virginia residents have received 1.4 million vaccine doses out of a total 1.73 million received by the state. A total of 351,000 Virginians have received both doses, which are needed for the vaccine to be completely effective.

“It’s been incredible to witness the resiliency, passion and dedication of the health care workforce driving care delivery across Virginia, said Steve Arner, Carilion Clinic Chief Operating Officer and the Chairman of VHHA’s Board of Directors. “While we wouldn’t wish to be in this situation, we appreciate that Virginia has a structurally-sound health care delivery system. We are fortunate to work alongside thousands of talented clinicians and health care workers whose dedication to patients is unparalleled.” 

Peninsula Rescue Mission Serves Through the Pandemic

Daelin Brown | Staff Writer

NEWPORT NEWS- Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the United States to shut down, the Peninsula Rescue Mission homeless shelter did not let the pandemic stop them from sheltering the homeless population of Hampton Roads. 

“We have been operating as close to normal as we can. The people who are in the shelter still have to eat, so our doors have been open throughout the entire pandemic,” said Paul Speight, director of development at Peninsula Rescue Mission. 

The Peninsula Rescue Mission has a team of about 20 staff members, but they rely heavily on volunteers that serve meals. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter experienced a drastic decrease of hands-on volunteers. 

“During the shutdown we lost more than half of our volunteers. When we did away with check out at the shelter, we were providing everything ourselves,” said Speight. 

Usually, the Peninsula Rescue Mission gives people the option to check in and check out a bed when they need a space to sleep. The one big change during the pandemic was that the shelter was not letting anyone check out. Therefore, when people are checked in, they have that bed available to them for 6 months. 

The pandemic also put the shelter at 50 percent capacity from  June of 2020 until November of 2020. However, even with half capacity, they did not have to turn anyone from the shelter. 

“When you work with the homeless population, they tend to be an isolated group anyway. Their concerns were the same as ours were and being outside was safer in their minds anyway,” said Speight. “Even in winter months, we only filled to full capacity a few times.” 

When the Peninsula Rescue Mission opened back up fully, at first only 30 percent of their volunteers came back, but gradually, the number of volunteers increased.

Even with less volunteers and full capacity, the shelter had generous donations. Many people recognize the homeless population to be the most vulnerable population in the Hampton Roads community, especially during a pandemic, so the shelter found themselves with an abundance of strong financial support and new donors. 

“We have been very blessed in the area that our donations have remained strong over the pandemic,” said Speight. “Homeless shelters and food banks were two subcategories of nonprofits that tended to perform pretty well.” 

Many organizations like churches and schools that didn’t want to participate in  hands-on volunteering participated in the shelters’ “adopt a meal” campaign. 

“We had a campaign called ‘adopt a meal’ and donation groups would purchase meals from a local restaurant. This helped both local businesses with sales and saved our staff workers a night of work,” said Speight. 

Over 100 different groups helped donate to the shelter in the midst of the pandemic and the Peninsula Rescue Mission was able to receive over one thousand dollars worth of meals.

Winter storms devastate the south, impacting virtual learning for Hampton students

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

The Trinity River is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. A frigid blast of winter weather across the U.S. has left more than 2 million people in Texas without power. (Yffy Yossifor/Star-Telegram via AP)

Concurrent winter storms that swept much of the continental United States has left millions throughout the south without power or water for several days, according to The Associated Press

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

For many Hampton University students, power outages from the winter storms created a new obstacle for virtual learning. 

Mariah Smith, a sophomore economic major from Houston, Texas, says that living through a utilities crisis while being a student was not just an inconvenience, but it was highly stressful. 

“The power and water outage was [sic] very stressful for my family,” Smith said. “Spending most of the day in the dark with limited food and water was very mentally taxing.” 

Furthermore, Smith feels the severity of the situation was not completely respected by her professors. 

“The power outage caused me to miss days of classes,” she said. “Accommodations were not made by professors once I reached out to them. The vast majority of them did not respond to the emails.”

For Brianna Cry, a senior kinesiology major from Jackson, Mississippi, a lack of power and water for multiple days further exacerbated her angst connected to an atypical final year at Hampton. 

“Of course, being engaged in online learning this year has been somewhat difficult for most students,” Cry said. “But not having power, water or internet for days has left me with a lot of assignments to catch up on during my last weeks of college. 

The storms, known unofficially as Winter Storm Uri and Winter Storm Viola, left deep southern states such as Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi covered in ice—a rarity for this region. This most notably led to a power outage crisis in Texas, caused by an Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) infrastructure failure, according to a report from CBS. 

According to its website, ERCOT is a nonprofit corporation that operates Texas’ electrical grid and supplies power for more than 90 percent of the state’s electrical needs. 

ERCOT is unique in being the only deregulated energy market in the nation, meaning that it is completely disconnected from the national power grid and was ultimately unable to borrow power from other states. 

The domino effect of a power outage not only led to food and water shortages but is also connected to dozens of deaths according to the Texas Tribune

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

Rochester Police Under Fire for Pepper Spraying a 9-Year-Old

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

Police officers in Rochester, New York, are under fire after pepper-spraying and handcuffing a nine-year-old girl while responding to a call of “family trouble.” 

Body camera footage, released on Sunday, show officers restraining the girl, putting her in handcuffs, and trying to get her into the back of a police car as she cries and calls for her father repeatedly. The officers then ask the girl to put her feet in the car, but after she fails to comply, they pepper-spray her. 

The video has led to public outrage and has resulted in the suspension of the officers involved.

“They should be fired,” said Elba Pope, the victim’s mother. “Regardless of what happened prior, there is no reason why a child should be pepper-sprayed when she is already detained in handcuffs in a car.”

The incident strikingly resembles Daniel Prude, an African American man who died in March after being pinned by Rochester police. Footage showed officers putting a hood over Prude’s head as he experienced a mental health crisis.

After the Prude incident, Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, fired the police chief saying there was a “pervasive problem” in the police department.

In a press conference Sunday, the Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said that the girl’s treatment was not acceptable.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a nine-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not,” said Herriott-Sullivan in the press conference. “I don’t see that as who we are as a department, and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”

Mayor Warren said the girl reminded her of her daughter. 

“I have a 10-year-old daughter. So she’s a child; she’s a baby. And I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see. It’s not,” said Warren during the press conference. “We have to understand compassion, empathy. When you have a child that is suffering in this way and calling out for her dad, I saw my baby’s face in her face.”

The victim arrived at the Rochester General Hospital, and was later released, according to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson.