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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.

Kenya: Attention African American Entrepreneurs

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(NNPA) This week has probably been the most productive week of my career. We are just in awe of what we have learned about here in Kenya. This nation is facing the future with progressive thought and a desire for greatness amongst its people. Kenya Vision 2030 is an economic development program that will jettison the people of Kenya into a middle class nation. During the next 20 years they plan to modernize the nation and create an environment that is friendly to education, high technology, environmental responsibility, high employment and productivity. Africa is starting to change for the better and Kenya is becoming the leader in this long overdue movement. To accomplish this mission they must hire an enormous amount of vendors – far more than they have capacity for right now. They must go out and recruit businesses to come in and help complete the task and that is where we, African American businesses, come in. Sure they could use the usual Chinese, Japanese, European, etc. businesses but they don’t help build local capacity and offer training and employment with the local citizens. They come in, get the money and leave.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce is pledging to government officials that the businesses we recruit to help develop the nation will be obligated to train local workers and mentor perspective local entrepreneurs. In the end, Kenya will have a strong capacity amongst its people and that will guarantee a continuing bright future. We will begin to market the opportunities and build a network of African American businesses that are willing to put offices in Kenya and participate in the building of a new and better nation.

This nation is going to build many new freeways and open highways, including bridges, throughout its geography. There will be dams built and many reservoirs. A new oil pipeline will be built from newly formed South Sudan to a new deep water port along the Kenyan shoreline. New utility plants and alternative energy centers will be needed to support what is being built. There will actually be new cities built such as the technology center north of capital Nairobi. This new city alone will need 30,000 new homes, several schools, a hospital and industrial parks. In all, the nation is planning to build 300,000 new homes alone. This is going to require an enormous amount of business interaction. “For example, we are going to need all of the architects and engineers you have to offer”, exclaimed Mugo Kibati, Director General of Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat to our visiting team. Mr. Kibati is a graduate of George Washington University (D.C.) and MIT (Boston).

What has brought this about? An evolution of good governance has emerged. The bright minds that have left the nation to become highly trained and educated in Europe and the United States are returning with the resolve to make their homeland great. Instead of a “brain drain” the nation is having a “brain gain”. For the first time in history a constitution is being written and implemented. The rule of law will be in place and that makes things very business friendly. Corruption and ineptitude are seeing their last days. The world’s banking environment is paying attention to this and investment potential is rising exponentially. Likewise, the whole region of East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan – is starting to move forward with Kenya having a “jump start” and leading the way. The whole area will become a gigantic Trade Free Zone.

Thus, this historical opportunity has presented itself and we are going to take advantage of it. We will be assembling our first wave of interested African American businesses who are interested in learning more and evaluating the possibilities next month. During our 19th Annual Convention - July 21 -23 in Miami, FL - we will be sponsoring a formal presentation and workshop given by Kenya Ambassador Alkaneh Odembo and various representatives of the Kenyan government (see our website). From there we will assemble those still interested and begin match making them with their counterparts in Kenya. We will begin convening trips to Kenya for face to face discussions and negotiations and, eventually, contract competition. Believe me, it is on!

What this does is open our entrepreneurs to a new and gigantic market void of racism and good ‘ol boys games that we are always having to deal with in this nation. The skills we have learned and mastered can now be applied to a friendly atmosphere. Also, jobs, quality of life and a future for greatness is finally coming to our Motherland. I thank God for being here as it begins to happen and will do my best to contribute all I can.

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

Closing The Digital Divide: A Worthy Task For Our Community

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By Rev. Mark E Whitlock II –

Scripture teaches us to “Love Thy Neighbor.” For many of us, that means checking in on a senior, dropping off a meal to a family with a newborn, watching a child for a single working parent, helping with chores when someone is ill or offering a word of encouragement when someone has lost a job. But would you ever imagine that caring for your neighbor means helping them get access to the Internet?

It does. And let me explain why. The Internet now dominates the way we communicate, obtain information, seek employment, education and healthcare, find products and services and use entertainment.

For the vast majority of our neighbors, quick and easy access through a high speed broadband connection is a way of life. But for the 30 percent of California who have no access to the Internet, there exists a digital divide that cuts off people from pursuits far more consequential than email and online shopping. It means that for millions of our neighbors, there is no way to apply for a job, to find government services, to expand their educations, to apply for benefits or even to find a doctor. Black and Hispanic households are far less likely than White and Asian households to have broadband Internet access.

Why, you may reasonably ask, is a pastor talking about access to the Internet? It’s simple: this is not just a matter of convenience or frivolity. If you think about it, this is about social justice.

Those on the other side of the digital divide are often the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, the unemployed, and the uneducated. The people most in need of financial assistance, employment and educational opportunities, government services and healthcare are the ones least likely to find it because they are cut off from the main artery of information in American life. And in 2011, that’s just not acceptable.

President Obama has made it our nation’s goal to connect every American to affordable high speed broadband internet by 2020. Those of us in the faith community are uniquely suited to help this worthy campaign. We know how to reach those of us in the faith community are uniquely suited to help in this worthy campaign. We know how to reach those who are vulnerable, isolated or struggling to make ends meet. We know families wi th chi ldren yearning to learn and teenagers seeking financial aid for college, low-income working families who would benefit greatly from social services.

That’s why my congregation has joined the Race to Close the Digital Divide, a federally funded program that helps provide computer education, equipment and low-cost broadband Internet access to our congregants. Costs have fallen dramatically and the technology is easier than you might imagine. We can learn and move forward together as a community.

The church that enrolls the most new subscribers will win a free computer lab and training. But more importantly, we will have the satisfaction of knowing we have not only helped our neighbors, we have empowered them by providing an essential tool of modern American life.

I encourage you and your congregation to join us in the Race to Close the Digital Divide.

Rev. Mark E. Whitlock II is the pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, CA. For more information about the Race to Close the Digital Divide, please call toll free 1-888-235-1541 or email gc2day@gmail.com

The NAACP is Right: Public Schools Should Be Supported

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(NNPA) Last month, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)) filed a lawsuit in New York on behalf of students and their parents. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, the lawsuit was filed because “Students are being grossly mistreated, their parents are being deeply disrespected and the entire community stands to suffer.” As a member of the Black Leadership Forum, I fully concur with NAACP’s educational position in New York.

The issue at hand is whether public school students in New York (and in other jurisdictions” are being treated as “second-class” students to charter school students).

For starters, and contrary to charter school advocates, public schools are not equal under the law. Public schools receive funding from the public sector (i.e. federal, state, and local government). Conversely, charter schools receive money from private investors, who profit from the success of schools.

With such a backdrop, charter school students in New York seem to be favored over public school students who are stigmatized as “regular students.” For example:

• Charter students are placed in public school buildings causing extreme challenges for space
• Public students must eat lunch at 10:00 a.m. so that charter students may eat lunch a 12 noon
• Public schools are restricted to four hours of library time compared to seven hours given to charter students
• Public students in some New York schools are forced to learn in basement hallways in order to make room for charter students

In addition to the issue of imposing charter schools within public schools the New York Public School system has failed honor the law by informing public school parents prior to making changes within the school district such as school closures.

I further agree with the NAACP and Benjamin Jealous when he asserts, “When one set of students is perceived as getting preferential treatment over another, or the city refuses to work with parents to fix problems at a school before closing it, the inequity leaves all our children suffering.” Yet, the educational issue in New York is much deeper.

The United States of America has never fully embraced a strong public school system. When public schools were established in 1853, the wealthy elite in many instances opposed public schools. After all, their children were educated in private academies.

Over the years, opposition for public schools has never waned. During the Reconstruction Period, following the American Civil War, public schools were burned and terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan on their un-Godly view that African Americans should not be educated. In 1954, southern Whites opposed the racial desegregation order of Brown v. Board of Education by creating private academies that only allowed Whites to attend. Twenty-five years later when the Brown ruling was enforced with mandatory busing of public school students, mass opposition to public schools reared its ugly head in American cities such as Boston, Massachusetts when African Americans and Latinos were bused to mostly White school districts. In each historical era, in this nation’s history, public has been under constant attack.

The broader American policy question is whether all students—regardless of race or resources—have a right, rather than a privilege to a high quality education. More particularly, the federal government must take a righteous stand against the privatization of public education by 1) Increasing the federal allotment to public education from the current 9 percent; and 2) Enshrining the right to high quality education for all American students in the U.S. Constitution.

As long as privateers pervert public education via charter schools while the federal government stands idly by, and public students and their parents are inferiorly treated, American education system is in need for remediation.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

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