Virginia Passes Law for Expungement of Marijuana Charges

Kyra Robinson | Staff Writer

On Monday, Virginia took a step towards pro-marijuana reform by passing a bill that now allows those charged with marijuana possession to expunge their first charge by paying a $150 fee.

The bill was proposed by Republican Senator Tommy Norment and had a 38-2 vote. Norment considered the bill’s win to be progress for marijuana reform. Norment’s Democratic colleague, Senator Adam Ebbin opposed the bill for its inability to stop the racial disparity of marijuana arrests, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Originally, Norment had planned to push for a decriminalization bill, but ultimately decided against it because he did not believe it would pass in the Virginia House of Representatives.

Sophomore Victoria Ford is a Political Science major who intends to be an international human rights lawyer, and she believes the bill is a step in the right direction.

“Marijuana is becoming more normalized every day, and I think the United States needs to start shifting with society,” Ford said.

The expungement fee is a significant aspect of the bill. According to Senator Norment, the revenue from this fee will go to preventative opioid abuse education.

While he considers the bill to be progress towards marijuana reform, junior Political Science Maurice Foster Jr. believes the fee was not necessary.

“It just seems like the state of Virginia just wants more money. However, I am happy that the fee is not extremely outrageous,” Foster said.

Foster actually had his own legal troubles after being found with marijuana in his possession.

“By the grace of God, I had a great lawyer that protected my freedom,” Foster said on the matter, “But that isn’t the case for many who are arrested.”

He believes that marijuana should be legalized due to how many people use the substance.

“I feel like too many people are labeled as drug addicts for using a substance that has been proven to be safer than many other substances that are currently legal,” Foster said.

Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Former President Obama implemented a policy to keep federal prosecutors from bringing charges in states where the substance is legal, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under the Trump administration, rescinded the policy.

“I think it’s just a way to continue to racially profile minorities,” Ford said, “At least if Virginia is trying to reform marijuana law, other states can follow suit.”


Historic royal engagement excites millenials

Kyra Robinson | Staff Writer

Courtesy of Chelsea Harrison

After breaking the internet with their historic engagement announcement, Great Britain’s Prince Harry and television actress Meghan Markle have set their wedding date to May of next year, according to CNN reporters.

They announced their engagement Nov. 28, and social media went into frenzy, since the love affair was widely considered so untraditional.

Markle is half African-American, half Caucasian and a divorcee — the first to marry into the royal family in 81 years, Fox News reported.

The most recent time America cared so deeply about social affairs in Great Britain was when Prince William married Duchess Kate Middleton, and then people across the United States woke early in the morning to watch the Westminster Abbey wedding take place.

Now, there is more American participation and input because of Markle’s citizenship.

The actress and blogger is mostly known for her role of paralegal Rachel Zane on USA Network’s legal drama Suits. She also has made appearances in films, including Horrible Bosses, Remember Me and Anti-Social.

However, she did not truly become an A-lister until the news broke in 2016 that she was dating Prince Harry. Vanity Fair even reported that she was the most searched woman online in the last year.

Hampton University sophomore Destany Manns is a loyal viewer of Markle’s current show Suits and was ecstatic when she heard of the engagement.

“I’m so happy for her and so excited to see an American woman of color in the British royal family because it’s nice to have that change in tradition,” Manns said happily, adding that she would wake up early to watch their wedding as she also did for the current Cambridge Duke and Duchess.

Markle expressed in an Elle interview last year that she did struggle to get cast because she could never properly fit the roles due to her being “ethnically ambiguous.”

Markle struggled to fit in because she felt “too white” to be black and “too black” to be white.

However, that did not stop African-Americans on social media outlets from celebrating the union between Prince Harry and Markle.

Twitter exploded with calls of “black princess,” and there was general excitement for a woman of color having that opportunity.

“It’s what we really need in the current political climate,” HU sophomore Jordyn Edwards said.

Edwards had no prior knowledge of Markle but became quite invested when the news broke.

“It’s representation that is needed globally for black girls,” Edwards said. “I’m excited to see where this goes.”

Libyan slave trade: 700,000 victims and counting

Odyssey Fields | Staff Writer

libya pic
David Ramos | Getty Images

Hidden between walls of North Africa, over 700,000 migrants and refugees have been secretly kidnapped and sold into the horrific system of slavery.

Libya has been under chaos since their dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown in 2011. In response, uproar struck the impoverished country, leaving millions of people in danger.

According to Brookings Institution (Washington D.C. public policy organization) reports , as the year continued, Libya’s economy plummeted and its resources continued to become limited, with its productive oil reserve declining as well.

Their infrastructure began to deteriorate and the country was put at a standstill full devastation.

In efforts to escape horrific conditions, migrants decided to travel to Europe to improve their living conditions, opening up opportunities for success.

During their attempt, over 700,000 migrants were captured and smuggled into Libya, the main gate to Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, according to Washington Post reports.

And now, The Libya Observer, Libya’s leading online news source, estimated that an average of 150,000 people pass this gate every year, leading traffickers to aim at their refugee targets.

People from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan have been effortlessly pulled into captivity.

Thousands have been sent to detention centers where they were brutally abused and tortured in unimaginable and inhumane conditions.

Some were starved, forced to labor, women and children were sexually abused., according to CNN reporters. Approximately 25,800 children were smuggled and sold into prostitution.

There have been a total of 34 detention centers discovered in Libya, with many children awaiting to be sold and some even held for ransom.

Tatyanna Sutton, cybersecurity major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland said, “Slavery has truly never ended. Instead it has been normalized.

“I [was sad to hear] slave trades are still occurring today and has been normalized in these third world countries.”

Though it has been hidden, the Libya slave trade has been up and running since 2011 revolution.

“To see that it is happening the way that it is, is definitely a complete shock to me,” Hannah McCall, second year journalism major from Houston, said.

“It’s even more shocking to know how long it has been going on and how it hasn’t been stopped yet!”

Many European and African leaders have begun to step in, ordering that all refugees and migrants be brought back to their native countries.

As efforts to return victims to their homes progress, the United Nations Security Council has started an investigation into the auctions in efforts to immediately put a halt to all detention centers and trades in Libya.

Is the issue stricter gun control laws or mental health?

Kennedi Jackson | Staff Writer

Over the past months, there have been various mass shootings in the U.S. The country was outraged following the shooting in Las Vegas, when 58 people were murdered. Most recently, on Sunday November 5, a man opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 27. Democrats are now calling for stricter gun control laws in result of the massacres, in which loose gun regulations played a part.

According to CNN reporters, the Texas church shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley had a history of domestic violence, escaped from a mental hospital, and attempted to sneak guns onto an Air Force Base. Although mental health is a large issue concerning national security, the Democratic party is concerned that there are not enough regulations in place to prevent mental health from having a role in gun violence period.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed a bill that essentially made it easier for people to purchase firearms, including individuals with histories of mental illness. However, many democrats argue that President Trump’s actions have been hypocritical, with him making a statement which blamed the Texas shooting on mental health rather than a problem with gun laws.

Now, Democrats are attempting to take control of the situation by demanding stricter gun control laws. Statistics show that while around 80% of democrats are in favor of harsher regulations, only about 50% of republicans support it.

Along with democrats, some Hampton University students believe that stricter gun control laws should be put in place. Sophomore Denzel Little feels that there should be more precautions taken before someone is allowed to obtain a firearm.

“Background checks need to be extensive and required. There should either be limitations or no tolerance for someone with a mental health and a violent past to be able to purchase a gun. There should even be a program that people have to take before they can carry a weapon.”

Jailah Long, a freshman aviation major from Cincinnati believes gun control is something too serious to be taken so lightly by our politicians.

“Trump is blaming this on a disease, a condition people cannot sometimes control. Gun control is needed because it has continued to take innocent lives that should still be here today.”

Democrats continue to push for legislation such as the Background Completion Act and Obama’s Gun-check rule, hoping that change can be made to prevent future tragedies at the hands of wrongful gun violence.

Hampton students get out the vote

Kyra Robinson | Staff Writer

Courtesy of Kyra Robinson

Virginia kept its “blue status” after Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, where all three Democrats gained their sought political seats.

Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie for governor with 53.9% of the vote. Justin Fairfax defeated Republican Jill Vogel for the position of lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring gained his second term as the attorney general of the state.

Another notable win was the victory of Democrat Danica Roem, the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia as a state Delegate, whom beat 11 term seat holder and openly transphobic, Bob Marshall

Various organizations on campus worked many weeks prior to the election day to emphasize the power of the college student’s vote.

Nationwide organizations with Hampton-based chapters, like “Next Gen and Generation Action,” coordinated the “Get Out The Vote” weekend where students volunteered by canvassing and phone banking on campus and around the Hampton Roads .

Junior Alexis Weston, who is a part of both of those organizations, felt that Hampton students were very engaged in this election due to President Trump’s win in 2016. She observed that there was a significant amount of Hampton students at the polls on election day.

“It’s important for college students to vote because we truly get affected by these laws. This is the world that we’re about to walk into so we need to make it into something that helps our community,” she said.

Sophomore Aman Tune was also involved with raising voting awareness and worked the polls for two hours. Though it was cold and rainy, she felt that she made an impact as she assisted voters on all the proper procedures.

“I was able to hand out sample ballots and talk to voters about who was on the ballots,” she expressed, “It was great being of service to the community and doing my part to get people out to vote.”

During the time she worked the polls, Tune also observed a large turn out in Hampton student voters.

“To see how many students were getting on and off the shuttles was great,” she expressed, “I was so proud to see Hampton students going out and taking part in this election because it is so important. The numbers looked great and ultimately led to a victorious day.”

According to election statistics, 71.6% of those who voted in Hampton voted for Ralph Northam. After commuting to Phoebus High School to cast their ballots, Hampton University students who identified as Democrats were pleased with these results.

Sophomore Kamili Rosenbaum voted early that morning and even though she did not see many people when she went, she knew that Hampton students were more engaged for this election.

“The students were definitely more involved this year because we were so upset about Trump’s election last year, and we knew there would be a problem if we did not get out there,” Rosenbaum said later that day, “If we have problems with who is running our country, the best time to resolve them is right now. Our voices matter more than ever.”


Hampton residents want two schools to remove Confederate names

Zoe Griffin | Staff Writer

Courtesy of Hampton University

Dozens of Hampton citizens gathered together in the auditorium of Benjamin Syms Middle School Thursday evening, October 26, to express their concerns before the Hampton school board.

The purpose of this public hearing was to decide whether the Confederate soldiers’ names on Jefferson Davis Middle school and the campus at Lee, formerly Robert E. Lee, Elementary school should be taken down from school buildings.

The Hampton chapter of the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference requested that the two middle schools be renamed following the events in Charlottesville.

During the white nationalist rally on August 11, protesters and neo-Nazi’s had altercations which eventually brought issues involving confederate monuments to light.

The public hearing is one of two being held by the school board to get the opinions of citizens on renaming the schools. They are currently named after Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who were both Confederate leaders in the Civil War.

The public hearing followed the format of an open-panel discussion.

Before each citizen stood up to speak before the panel, they had to state their full names and home addresses. They were given only two minutes each to express their concerns.

The auditorium was completely diverse in both race and age.

A group of Hampton University students made up a majority of supporters for the middle schools’ names being changed.

There were also several teachers, professors, and citizens who had opinions that they wanted to be considered by the Hampton school board.

A similar public hearing occurred last year as well following requests to rename Davis Middle School and Campus after Lee, but the school board decided to leave the names of the school untouched.

The majority of the community wanted to leave the names of the confederate soldiers on the schools last year.

Some citizens still take that stance today.

During this public hearing, those in support of renaming the schools largely outnumbered those who were against the names being removed.Activists and supporters of the name change brought new arguments and perspectives to the hearing this year.

Many came to the hearing specifically in support of Heather Heyer, a woman who was killed during the riots in Charlottesville.

“We have a voice in this day and age. We are a special class of people and we deserve respect. If the name of that school doesn’t change, the name of the people on this school board may change because we’re going to vote,” said Hampton resident Michael Bullock as the audience erupted in applause.

The second hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Hampton High School.

HU student competes for Miss VA USA

Leondra Head | Local & World Editor

Delaria Ridley | Courtesy of Leondra Head

Hampton University’s Delaria Ridley is making a name for herself in the pageant world, most notably competing for Miss Virginia USA as Miss North Hampton USA.

Ridley is a senior strategic communications major from Atlanta and has been competing in pageants since 15 years old.

“My experience while participating in the pageant was absolutely amazing. I gained a great network of women. Pageants truly allow you to meet women from all walks of life. It was great [competing] in another state.”

Ridley’s platform was HOPSCOTCH K!DS, Helping Others Play.

Her purpose was to encourage young men and women to pursue their dreams without limits by giving them the tools they need to succeed.

Leading up to the pageant, practice kept Ridley busy to prepare for the big night.

“Oh, boy! Practice was three hours for four days a week. Practice included walking lessons, interview prep and exercising daily.”

Ridley maintained a healthy diet months prior to the pageant to prepare herself. “My diet consisted of high protein and vegetable intake. I limited my carb intake to about 30-45 a day.”

Ridley started competing at a young age in 2010 as a contestant in the National Miss Pageant. In high school, she competed for Miss Georgia Teen USA.

Ridley is from Georgia and is still a resident of the “peach state.” Miss Virginia USA is her 7th pageant and 5th state pageant. Although Ridley did not place, she plans to return home to compete for Miss Georgia USA in the future.

“I plan to return back to the place I call home to compete! Georgia is where my roots are and I would love to compete and hopefully represent the state that has contributed to my development as a woman.”

Throughout Ridley’s experience, she received advice and guidance from Miss Tennessee USA 2015 and Hampton alumna, Kiara Young.

Forty-five contestants competed in the pageant that was held at the Tidewater Community College’s Roper Theater in Downtown Norfolk.

The portions of the competition were evening gown, swimsuit, interview and an on-stage question.

Virginian-Pilot cuts nearly 10 percent of staff

Kennedi Jackson | Staff Writer

Courtesy of Kennedi Jackson

Nearly 150 years after the Virginian-Pilot was founded in 1865, the largest Virginia newspaper in Virginia is cutting close to 10 percent of its staff.

The parent company, Pilot Media, has offered to pay buyouts to long-term employees who have served at least 25 years with the paper, however they have also declared that if there are not enough volunteers, they will proceed with forced layoffs.

Cashara Quinn, a first-year journalism major and writer for HerCampus, has a strong opinion on the changes being made.

“I think it’s unfair that people are losing their jobs when they’ve been loyal to the company for a long time and just want to provide for their families,” Quinn said.

The Pilot is adapting to the changing media world and is hoping to convert from print to digital.

Pilot Media sees digital media as a more profitable venue, and the faster the digital platform grows, the slower print revenue comes in.

Despite this reasoning, Hampton University students wish that the shift wasn’t made so soon.

“The Pilot should stick with the traditional print newspaper,” Quinn said. “A lot of older people rely on newspapers and haven’t moved digitally yet. Having been around a long time, there are still many people who want to pick up a newspaper and read it rather than going online.”

Another concern with the newspaper reducing staff is that the publication will lose some of staff members’ creative input.

The newspaper is popular for its designs and production, but according to Forbes, even this signature outlet is being threatened.

By releasing some of the most expensive employees, the company is also losing their eldest and most experienced ones as well.

According to Pilot Media, the company wants to decrease the staff of 543 by slightly less than 10 percent.

Although the change is disappointing to some, Kennedy Peace, a strategic communications major from Pennsylvania, says she understands why it has to be done.

“It makes sense because a lot of things today are digital. If they realize what they are doing right now isn’t working and they want to take steps to improve their business, then that’s what they need to do,” Peace said.

“They’re put in a position where they have to figure out what step to take next, and unfortunately, making the shift from print to digital may be it.”

Rising Epidemic of Opioid Addicted Babies

Kennedi Jackson | Staff Writer


The number of opium-addicted babies continues to rise, with the rate of children being born into addiction quadrupling over the past 15 years. Babies with desperate, high-pitched wails and shaking bodies reside in hospitals all over the U.S.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is the condition of symptoms babies go through when they are exposed to drugs in the womb. When a birthing mother has suffered from abuse of drugs and has a baby, the newborn’s nervous system can trigger symptoms of withdrawal. Up to 94 percent of babies exposed to opioids end up experiencing withdrawal.

Freshman Skylar Buck spends a lot of time around young children, and the thought of this happening across the nation is unsettling to her.

“Children are meant to be cared for and loved. If a parent can’t control themselves then they shouldn’t risk bringing a baby into the world who will only suffer because of them.”

The Center for Disease Control estimates that around six out of 1,000 babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The increasing amount of children being affected is also damaging to the pocket. Treating one child can cost up to $60,000.

Lawsuits against opioid manufactures, drug dealers, and even pain clinics are one of the steps being taken to try and limit the amount of prescription opioids being placed on the market. Large manufacturers have been charged with fines and paid settlements over the years to avoid scandal with releasing of these drugs, but no one is willing to take responsibility for the ongoing crisis.

According to National Geographic research, there are things being done to more effectively to treat the addiction. Researchers are straying away from the traditional hospital and medication approach and attempting to create a strong bond between mothers and the babies.

Sophomore nursing major Key agrees with researchers and said “Medication may not always be the best remedy, sometimes all a baby needs is proper attention.” According to National Geographic, 86 percent of babies with the syndrome used to rely on medication, whereas now only about 30 percent are. Forming this bond has been proven to combat some of the negative effects that can be controlled, such as behavioral issues. Children with NAS are considered more likely to end up in the foster care system, and although there is not clear research done on the effects of this disease on the brain, there is still the possibilities of cognitive and behavioral problems. “There’s still a lot of work to be done”, says Key, “but hopefully something can be done to help prevent crises like this in the future.”

HU student involved in Planned Parenthood action

Kyra Robinson | Staff Writer

Michyah Thomas

Hampton University’s Planned Parenthood: Generation Action (PPGA) president Michyah Thomas was in New Orleans for a reproductive justice conference when the news broke that President Trump would roll back the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

She was among other women passionate about political change, mingling and enjoying good food when an official of the SisterSong Inc. conference delivered the news. Thomas said immediately, the mood in the room changed.

“Everyone in this room is here for a reason,” the sophomore Political Science major recalled what the official expressed, “You are here because you are going to fight back.”

Thomas got involved with Planned Parenthood in 2016 after falling ill, having to visit one of their facilities.

During that time, she was in so much pain she often could not go to class.

Later, she was invited to the Youth Organizing Summit where she met a national official for Planned Parenthood who sought HBCU representation and saw potential in Thomas to spread the message of the organization.

Now, Thomas works for Planned Parenthood and leads a Generation Action chapter on this campus. With the Virginia gubernatorial election approaching, Thomas is worried on how elected officials will play a role in Trump’s alteration of healthcare policy.

On Oct. 6, national news networks reported that the Trump administration had altered the mandate requiring contraceptives to be covered. This new policy allows employers, nonprofit organizations, schools and universities to decide whether or not they want to cover contraceptives based on religious or moral grounds. The Obama administration projected that more than 55 million women had access to contraception without copayments with this mandate. However, this policy will not affect a majority of women in the United States according to the Health and Human Services Department.

While some universities might face conflict with this policy change, Hampton University’s current student health insurance plan covers contraceptives. Director of the Hampton University health center, Dr. Karen T. Williams considers birth control to be “beneficial medication and recognizes the multiple functions of it including: managing acne, endometriosis, a chronic disorder when tissue grows outside the uterus, and regulating menstrual cycles.”

Thomas became very familiar with the importance of birth control while she was ill. While she does not believe that most institutions will outright deny women contraceptive care, she worries that the decision could set a precedent for people to stop providing a wide-range of services on the basis of religion.

Since being politically involved since the age of 12, she stressed communicating grievances with elected officials. When asked about how to combat legislation that one found displeasing, Thomas said, “It goes beyond electing figures who show concern during their campaign.”

“The most important thing is to make noise after the fact. The conversation does not stop on election day. It’s important to use your voice because everyone has more power than they recognize,” said Thomas.