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Tiffany Haddish Gives Back, Celebrates Foster Graduates

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Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish is on a roll, with a string of high profile film and television roles as her career blossoms. But Haddish, 39, remembers tougher times.

When she was younger, she spent time in the foster system, before later becoming homeless. Now, she makes a point of giving back, offering help and encouragement to youth today in the foster and juvenile systems who are going through struggles not unlike what she faced.

“I’m really super proud of you guys,” Haddish said at an event titled “Success is Our Future,” a dinner celebrating the accomplishments of youth in the juvenile and foster systems. 

“I, too, was a former foster youth,” Haddish said. “And I understand the enormity of graduating and being celebrated and want these kids to know there is hope for them.”

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One of the celebrated graduates on the night said, “I know she was not born with a silver spoon. It makes me proud for me to hear from her, motivate in a positive way.”

NBC Los Angeles is keeping the identities of the honorees confidential as they transition to the next phase of their lives.

“It’s like a restart of everything,” a female honoree said. “Adulthood now.”

“As an adult, I’ve had struggles, but nothing like when I was under 19,” Haddish said.

“It was great that she came here to celebrate foster youth,” Liliana Patty Flores, a foster graduate, said.

Now 23 and a University of California graduate and bound for law school, Flores is a foster success story in her own right, after her struggles began with an abusive environment at home.

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“You put all these labels on me–delinquent,” Flores said. “I’m more than that.”

Flores found her voice when she was told in a group home that she could not have a hair comb.

“I challenged them, told the judge and he got me a hair comb,” Flores said.

Terri McDonald, the chief probation officer, said, “She’s learning how her message can be used to help the system improve.”

McDonald acknowledges the system has faced criticism–recently vowing to phase out pepper spray discipline in juvenile detention facilities. McDonald cites progress in reducing the number of detained juveniles with an emphasis on community placement, such as the group homes where most of the youth at the dinner have been.

“It was good rehab for me,” Jesse Velazquez, another foster graduate, said. “I learned lots of coping skills.”

Velazquez, who is now 21, is another graduate of the juvenile system and now in his final year at Rio Hondo College, making use of independent living assistance and looking to move on to a four year college to study psychology.

“Right now I’m working hard for scholarship, so more doors can open up,” Valazquez said.

Haddish said, “The system was not that great when I was in, but I had some good people around me.”

Those good people included the counselor who famously steered the young Haddish away from psychiatric therapy and into a comedy camp. Her talent and hard work took over from there.

“If you do something everyday, you can achieve,” Haddish said. “It may not be exactly what you want, but you’re going to achieve it.”

In addition to her time and her words, Haddish also brought some tangibles donated by her She Ready Foundation, including gift cards and suitcases for all of the graduates. More than most, Haddish can appreciate the significance of luggage as someone who knows what it’s like to be 13 and have to carry all her belongings in a trash bag.

“You’re a traveler on an adventure, not garbage,” Haddish said. “Now you have to go somewhere with a purpose.”

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‘Orange Is The New Black’ Featured an Immigrant Detention Hotline; ICE Shut It Down, Groups Say

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A toll-free hotline designed to help immigrants in detention centers get legal counsel was shut down by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the number was mentioned in the acclaimed Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black,” according to the California-based group that runs it.

The Freedom for Immigrants’ National Immigration Detention Hotline has been an available resource to people in immigration detention since 2013, but it was shut down on Aug. 7, about two weeks after the premiere of the last season of “Orange Is The New Black,” the organization said in a press release.

The hotline was featured in various episodes, NBC News reports

“The timing of the shutdown is deeply concerning. Freedom for Immigrants is being targeted for exposing abuses in detention and amplifying the stories of people suffering in the system,” Christina Fialho, an attorney and executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, said in a statement.

An ICE official told NBC News in a statement that “all ICE facilities provide detainees with reasonable and equitable access to telephones.”

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President Trump Praises Appointment of Special Prosecutor in Smollett Case

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After former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb was appointed as a special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case, President Donald Trump endorsed the move on social media.

The president sent out a tweet commending the selection of Webb for the post, calling it “great”:

“He said MAGA country did it. So terrible!” the president said.

When Smollett reported that he had been assaulted by two men on Jan. 29, 2019, he said that the pair had called him racial and homophobic slurs and had said “this is MAGA country” during the attack.

President Trump described the reported attack as “horrible” after the news became public.

Smollett was later charged with fabricating the attack, but the Cook County state’s attorney’s office later dropped the charges. President Trump criticized the decision as “an embarrassment to our nation,” and called for the FBI and the Department of Justice to look into the incident.

Currently, Smollett is facing a lawsuit from the city of Chicago, alleging that the actor owes the city approximately $130,000 in overtime costs for officers investigating the attack, and a defamation lawsuit from two Nigerian brothers who claim that Smollett paid them to stage the attack.

On Friday, Webb was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case.

“First, (I’ll) investigate if any persons or offices involved in the Smollett case engaged in any wrongdoing,” Webb said at a press conference. “Number two, determine if reasonable grounds do exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett. And number three, to submit a written report to the court of our findings and conclusions at the end of the special prosecutor’s investigation.”

The Cook County Inspector General’s office is also looking into the case, and is expected to issue a report later this year.  

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Lara Spencer Apologizes for Mocking Prince George’s Interest in Ballet on ‘GMA’

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ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-anchor Lara Spencer apologized Friday after outrage erupted on social media when she mocked and laughed at the inclusion of ballet in 6-year-old Prince George’s upcoming school year curriculum.

During a Thursday “Hot News” segment on the morning show, Spencer listed off what the royal prince would be studying when he goes back to school in the fall. 

“In addition to the usual first or second grade things, like math, science and history, the future King of England will be putting down the Play-Doh to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet, among other things,” she said.

Her emphasis on the word “ballet” was met with raucous laughter from the studio audience, NBC News reported.

“You couldn’t contain … oh, he looks so happy about the ballet class,” Spencer said laughing, as a picture of Prince George smiling ear-to-ear in while wearing a soccer jersey appeared on screen.

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