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South Sudan: An African American Opportunity

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(NNPA) Whenever there are advances for African freedom and self-determination, African Americans, in particular, should always be able to define mutual interests, opportunities and responsibilities to aid and assist our brothers and sisters in Africa. The Republic of South Sudan is the newest nation in the world and will become the 193rd member of the United Nations.

Independence Day for the Republic of South Sudan was as recent as this month. President Barack Obama stated, "A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. Together, we can ensure that today marks another step forward in Africa's long journey toward opportunity, democracy and justice. I am proud to declare that the United States formally recognizes the Republic of South Sudan a sovereign and independent state upon this day, July 09, 2011. After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation." We agree with President Obama's perspective and analysis about the significance of the newly established Republic of South Sudan. But we would like to deepen our memory and perspective on this momentous achievement from an African American perspective.

Too often in contemporary times, Africa is still viewed by too many Americans as that far off place where centuries ago, millions of people were enslaved and forcibly brought to the Americas for the sole purpose of one of the most brutal manifestations of human slavery and economic exploitation that the world has ever witnessed in history. Yet for African Americans we are more and more aware of how our plight here inside the United States of America still involves our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. But for the grace of God and the sacrifices, toil, courage and steadfastness of struggle by past generations of Blacks in America and throughout the displaced African world, we would not be able to recognize and celebrate the progress today that African people and all people continue to make toward a more just and empowered humanity.

Our concern and care is for our brothers and sisters in both the Republic of South Sudan and those who remain in the Sudan, to the north of the Republic of South Sudan. The whole of the Sudan and including the Republic of South Sudan ought to be the focus for all who care about Africa. The 50 years or more of deadly, self-destructive civil war has caused so much misery and suffering. It is good now that the civil war, despite some continued violent border clashes, has finally ended with the declaration of independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan being officially recognized by the world community.

African Americans should see clearly that once again there are significant and immediate economic and growth opportunities in this new African nation. Of course, some of the world's economic powers are already lining up to go after the vast quantities of oil and natural gas that are known to be some of the world's largest discoveries located in the Republic of South Sudan. China has just announced that they will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure development for the South Sudan. The U.K., France, the U.S., and other post-industrialized economies have all expressed their desire to work on development projects in this valuable mineral rich nation. At a time of very high unemployment in the African American community, this is a great moment in history for African American business leaders to develop new business relationships with Africa, and in particular with nations like the Republic of South Sudan.

I believe the greatest resource, however, that is in the Republic of South Sudan today is not its oil or natural gas, but it is its millions of people who have high aspirations and hope for a better quality of life. Thus, if Black owned businesses: the Black Press, colleges and universities, churches and other institutions that serve our communities would reach out to the Republic of South Sudan, it would raise the potential for ongoing sustainable economic development and educational joint ventures to be established. Africa awaits Black America. Giving back to Africa will bring a long lasting benefit to our brothers and sisters in Africa as well as to our brothers and sisters in our communities across America.

President Obama in his statement about the Republic of South Sudan reminded us what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about independence occurring in Africa. The President affirmed, "Decades ago, Martin Luther King reflected on the first moment of independence on the African continent in Ghana, saying, 'I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.' Today, we are moved by the story of struggle that led to this time of hope in South Sudan, and we think of those who didn't live to see their dream realized. Now, the leaders and people of South Sudan have an opportunity to turn this moment of promise into lasting progress." As we salute the Republic of South Sudan, let's extend a helping hand. The future holds great promise.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Educational Online Services Corporation.

From Subprime Mortgage to Student Financial Aid

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(NNPA) Yes, they are back. Some of the culprits who came up with the idea of subprime mortgage lending are back with a new and equally devastating hustle. As opposed to going into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to convince executives to corrupt an important process, they are going to the U.S. Department of Education. We lost over 35% of our net worth from the mortgage crisis. Our homes weren’t enough as now they are targeting the financial aid streams for Black students. If they have their way, we again will be financially damaged and our futures hurt all for the sake of quick money hustling. It is evil and it is racial, as it targets schools that serve minority communities the most. It is extremely important that we become active and vocal about this threat. The future of our children is on the line. Remember, you can be a political activist or a political victim – there is no in between. The following is my take on this urgent matter. Please read and begin your protest.

Nearly half of all students who pursue academic programs at for-profit college programs are minorities. Many are “non-traditional” students – single parents, veterans, full- or part-time working adults. Therefore, when federal financial aid is cut to for-profit schools, it will be minority and low-income students who are disproportionately hurt. Of course, this is exactly the opposite intent of the new Gainful Employment rule, which was ostensibly embellished to protect students from overwhelming debt. Yet the rule, released on June 2, after a year of acrimonious debate and over 90,000 public comments, is fundamentally flawed.

By singling out career colleges, where “high risk” students account for 51percent of the student population, it embodies a serious bias against minorities and the poor. Without federal student aid to attend a culinary arts or nursing program, for example, many minorities will be forced to abandon their studies. Tragically, at a time when unemployment figures in the African American community are in the double-digits (a staggering 41.6 percnet among African American teens, as compared to 24.2 percent of teens overall) and when, according to the College Board, just 26 percent of African Americans have at least an associate degree, it is our most vulnerable students who will be most hurt by this ruling – not helped.

Congress needs to stop this rule and go back to the drawing board. The fact that the department created this harmful rule is harmful enough, but how they went about doing it deserves close scrutiny and thorough investigations.

Good government groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have repeatedly uncovered a rulemaking process that was inappropriately guided by Wall Street short-sellers. Growing evidence shows an “inside job” of sorts, involving Wall Street financier, Steven Eisman, and Education Department executives, such as Deputy Undersecretary Robert Shireman, throughout the rule-making process. In Congressional testimony and in highly publicized presentations to the investment community, Eisman browbeat the for-profit college sector, “predicted” its collapse, and then handily profited on short selling the colleges’ stocks. The entire shady process was discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests and reported in the media.

The Department of Education has still not explained why it has unfairly made a scapegoat out of for-profit career colleges, on which minorities and low-income students heavily depend. The only rationale has been a discredited study by the Government Accountability Office. The Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff pressured the Government Accountability Office at the eleventh hour to produce an investigative report on for-profit-colleges. The hastily produced report was later revised to correct at least 16 "errors" that prejudiced the findings against career colleges. Why has the Department of Education continued to rely on that discredited report to justify passage of the new rules? And, why do Senators continue to use inaccurate data on the Senate floor?

In the wake of ongoing requests by leadership in the Congressional Black Caucus and others, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Urban League’s Mark Morial, Congress must draft comprehensive legislation that addresses the issue of America’s student debt across-the-board. It must create reform that is fair and effective and a remedy for colleges across the board -- not just the career college sector.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce calls upon Congress to conduct a thorough investigation into the improprieties in the rulemaking process, including the suspicious role of Education Department officials, such as Robert Shireman. A biased process produced a misguided and harmful rule and must be reversed by the Congressional Review Act or other means. Let us all rise to meet and defeat this challenge to the future of our children.

Mr. Alford is the President/CEO and co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Sudan: It Was All About the Water

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(NNPA) We have been concentrating on a current horror story or a struggle of the 21st century. In fact, this struggle for power in Sudan has been going on for thousands of years. We were taught in school that Egypt was the cradle of civilization. What we didn’t know was that they were referring to the southern region of this area, which wasn’t Egypt at all. It is what we call Sudan. There are more pyramids standing in Sudan than Egypt to testify of its factual greatness. The Macedonians (Alexander the Great) and Persians fought many battles to have the governance of this land. It was the “Bread Basket of the world” and who had possession of it had the corner on the world’s economy. The land, which is today called Southern Sudan, was rich and fertile as it is today and produces vast quantities of food for humans and livestock. Back in the day, Sudan was as Black as Africa since it was indeed in deep Africa. Arabs and others ventured many centuries later and partially change the racial dynamic in the northern regions.

How does Sudan hold such greatness? Lake Victoria is the source for precious water in this vast region of Eastern Africa. The lake, greater in size than twice that of Lake Michigan, provides precious water to what is now called Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and, of course, Sudan. Egypt is also a beneficiary as the great Nile River runs from Lake Victoria north through Egypt and into the Mediterrean Sea. The Bible refers to it as the river that Moses was put into a basket and floated to safe harbor. After British colonialism, boundaries were set and tribes were forced to live together and this caused later conflict. Sudan was no exception. From the beginning, the struggle over who would control the precious path of the Nile caused ongoing conflict.

Egypt came out a winner as it harnessed the annual flooding by the Nile by building the great Anwar Dam and settled all farming issues that it had. Sudan, which was carved up by a British point of view, had major controversy. As the British left it, the southern region of Sudan was basically indigenous African, i.e. Black and Christian while the northern region was Arab and Muslim - a perfect pattern for conflict. Soon the two regions became antagonists as to who should benefit from the flow of the Nile. The natural flow of the Nile fed the southern region known as Suud, which is some of the most fertile land in the world. Predominantly Muslim, Egypt chose sides with the Northern faction which was far away from Suud and supported manipulation of the flow of the river to the benefit of the northerners. The result was revolution beginning in the late 1950’s. Many years went by and there was a long stalemate.

This lasted for a few years but then Khartoum, the northern capital, convinced Egypt to support a strong effort to seize the flow of the Nile. The Arabs built and implemented a gigantic excavating machine to build a canal that would divert the Nile to northern Sudan and permanently reestablish the flow of precious water. Thus, a new revolution started and lasted many years. The revolution stopped the excavator when it was 80 percent complete with its mission. It lies rusting in the desert today and the revolution which incorporated the Darfur Holocaust is now coming to a close. So many precious lives have been lost over who controls the water, i.e. economy.

They wanted us to think that is was a racial and religious conflict when it was basically a regional and economic dilemma. Thank God it is finally coming to an end and the natural resources will stay in tack. The nations of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and the new Southern Sudan are in unity on the sharing of the precious Nile River. In fact, they are collaborating as an economic interchange such as the European Union and will share technology, enterprise and resources so that all nations will prosper. This is so over due in the continent. Things will change for the better and for mankind as a whole.

On July 9, 2011, the new nation of Southern Sudan will be born. We are so happy to have representatives of this new nation, namely the Southern Sudan Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, to make a presentation at our 19th Annual Convention in Miami, FL on July 23, 2011. We are committed to providing our resources and expertise such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities agriculture schools in helping this new nation get off to a great start. After so many tears and disasters, they are finally on their way. Thank God!

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Newly Elected Black Mayors Bolster the War on Unemployment

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“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The recent elections of Alvin Brown as Jacksonville, Florida’s first African American mayor and Michael Hancock as Denver’s second Black mayor, provide much needed new hope and leadership in the war on unemployment. Both Brown and Hancock have strong Urban League roots and both have made job creation in their cities job number one.

On May 19th, Alvin Brown, a former president of the Greater Washington Urban League Guild, shook up the political establishment of Florida’s largest city when he won election as Jacksonville’s first African American mayor.

Mayor-elect Brown’s long arc to City Hall began in the working class neighborhoods of Jacksonville, where he was raised by a devoted mother and grandmother who worked two jobs to raise him and his siblings. He worked as a meat cutter at the local Winn Dixie while attending Jacksonville State University. Hard times almost derailed his college aspirations until a Jacksonville pastor co-signed for a loan to keep him in school.

Brown earned his B.S. and M.B.A. from Jacksonville State and completed post graduate study at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He served as a senior urban affairs advisor for both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. As executive director of the White House Community Empowerment Board, he managed a $4 billion initiative to create jobs in urban America. Upon winning the election, Brown said, “My first priority is jobs. We must invest in the inner city and create public-private partnerships.”

Denver Mayor-elect, Michael Hancock, credits his background as the former President of the Denver Urban League and his two-terms as President of the Denver City Council with inspiring his run for City Hall. He won a run-off election on June 6 and becomes the second African American mayor in the history of the Mile High City. Wellington Webb was the first, serving from 1991-2003.

Hancock had a tough childhood. Growing up, he and his nine siblings experienced periods of homelessness. A brother died of AIDS. A sister was killed by an estranged boyfriend. Through it all, Hancock has always been a leader, both in his family and in the Denver community. He attended college in Nebraska, returning home every summer to work in Mayor Frederico Pena’s office. After graduation he earned his Master’s in public administration from The University of Colorado- Denver.

Hancock started his career in the 1990’s, holding down two jobs at the Denver Housing Authority and the National Civic League. He joined Metro Denver’s Urban League affiliate in 1995 and in 1999, at the age of 29, became the youngest Urban League president in America.

When asked about his priorities as Mayor, Hancock answered, “Growing jobs, without question. Everything we do will be about the sustainability of jobs in this city. Nothing’s more important…”

Alvin Brown and Michael Hancock know what it means to beat the odds.

They are also both committed to creating good jobs so that more Americans like them have the chance to realize their dreams. We congratulate them on their victories and wish them all the best.

Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO National Urban League.

End Nixon's 40 Year War on Blacks and Latinos

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(NNPA) Forty years ago this month, President Richard Milhous Nixon declared America’s “War on Drugs.” This failed war continues even today to have a devastating and debilitating impact on the lives of millions of Americans with the most devastating impact on Black Americans and Latino Americans. We should add our voices to the growing number of people of good conscience to demand a resolute end to this awfully destructive and nonproductive war.

The “War on Drugs” has not only wasted more than a trillion dollars over the last four decades, but also this misguided war has caused millions of families and communities to be injured and decimated. Instead of a “War on Drugs,” President Nixon should have declared a “War on Poverty.” Today, we all know the bitter truth that the prolonged social disillusionment and self-destructive consequence of the petulant mire of decades of poverty for millions of Americans actually sets the stage for the persistence of drug abuse, violence, and hopelessness.

It's most regrettable that the majority of voters in November 1968 underestimated Richard Nixon's repressive policy intentions. How did Nixon manage to become President of the United States in the first place? The answer to this question is important in 2011 as the nation prepares for the 2012 elections.

The current sentiments of the so-called Tea Party are very similar to the regressive views of Nixon and Agnew back in the late 1960's. Nixon and Agnew ran a divisive but successful "law and order" campaign and were elected in1968 in direct counter action to the profound social and political change in the consciousness of the majority of people who wanted real change in their lives. Thus, President Nixon was elected during a reactionary period in American history. It was a period of repression and the so-called “law and order” theme really was a code phrase for solidifying the “status quo” on the right to prevent further progressive social change that had become characteristic of the early and mid-1960’s. Keep in mind that Nixon and Agnew were elected in the immediate wake of the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We should be mindful not to let history repeat itself today as we approach 2012 elections. President Obama has to strive both to put an end to the failed drug policies of the past and to promote more treatment for drug related illnesses rather than to build more prisons. America needs more public policy rehabilitation from the punitive and careless drug policies that have led the United States to have the highest incarceration rate in the world while expanding the ranks of the poor and destitute.

The consolation is that we have won some victories even in the face of the failed War on Drugs. We recalled that in the aftermath of Nixon's declaration, the state of New York passed one of the most draconian drug laws ever enacted by a state: The Rockefeller Drug Laws in 1973. The results, in particular for African Americans and Latino Americans, were horrible that left thousands unjustly imprisoned for long prison terms even for first time, nonviolent offenders. But we thank the hip-hop community for helping to lead the way to successfully challenge and end the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Let us all on this somber anniversary re-dedicate ourselves to struggle to end poverty and to further dismantle the drug policies of the past that have had such a negative impact on the soul, spirit, and life of our nation. Let us prepare ourselves to push for more reforms and effective strategies and policies that will enable more people to become self-empowered and compassionate on behalf of the whole of humanity.

And finally, let's work harder to end the madness of ineffective drug policies. It's time to end Nixon's 40 year war on Blacks and Latinos. We should always strive to learn from the past without permitting the repetition of past wrongs.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.

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