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Jay-Z and Kanye West: Hip-Hop Empowerment

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(NNPA) This is a well-deserved salute to two global icons of hip-hop culture. Two successful Black men who transcend race and social division have attained the pinnacle of worldwide impact with their artistic genius and empowerment consciousness. Jay-Z and Kanye West, with the release of their latest album, “Watch the Throne," are revealing the sustainable power of hip-hop not only in America, but also throughout the world.

At a time when the prevailing commentary about Black people in America, Africa, the Caribbean, and throughout the Pan African world is too often focused almost solely on the pathology and the negative statistics and realities about our socioeconomic plight, it is refreshing to witness two brothers from different neighborhoods in the United States work together to produce the next level of music and international consciousness. But their recent achievement, in my view, goes way beyond the success of selling millions of music albums. Jay-Z and Kanye West together represent an evolving genre of new entrepreneurial giants that are helping to sustain a new economy and philanthropy for our communities that pushes the envelope on advancing African American economic development.

Knowing and affirming one’s own self-worth is a fundamental key to career success. Everyone is blessed with different skills, talent and opportunities. I am not encouraging everyone to try to be a rapper or poet. But I am encouraging that we all should strive to identify what are your skills and special talents or interests. It is good to a have a career goal and the self-determination, dedication and proper education to attain and fulfill your life goal. The inventiveness and creativity within the hip-hip community continues to be outstanding for those who know the benefit of hard work, study, practice, preparation and diligence. Jay-Z and Kanye West are still on their grind and their productivity is inspiring a younger generations of poets, rappers and other performing artists, designers, videographers, producers, financial managers, entrepreneurs, and developers to take full advantage of all the opportunities at hand.

Jon Caramanica in The New York Times characterized Jay-Z and Kanye West as "two titans" that "share the seat of power." Caramanica observed, “Making relevant socially themed songs in an age of financial and political unrest is a challenge these two artists at least pay lip service to. Like a charitable donation, it’s a combination of maturity and duty.” Jay-Z and Kanye West have become “brothers in the struggle” for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. Their artistic grind gives rise to a generation of young people throughout the world who are impatient with poverty and injustice, but who have the audacity to speak out and speak up with a bold creativity that will be welcomed by a billion youth across the globe.

Empowerment first takes place in your mind and consciousness. Hip-Hop is about not only having high aspirations or goals and objectives; it is also about having the courage, work-ethic, and the capacity to attain to fulfill your dreams and aspirations. Jay-Z and Kanye West know firsthand what overcoming poverty is all about from the streets of the hood to the corporate suites of power without losing your soul, spirit and sense of self-worth. In this unique collaboration, there is a certain cultural dignity and integrity that penetrates and lifts up all people who cry out for a better quality of life. “Watch the Throne” is an album that shatters the complacency and hopelessness that is currently undergirding the worldwide cynicism of those who prefer to acquiesce to the status-quo of do-nothingness and apathy.

I personally know these two young men. They represent the best of hip-hop and will encourage others to continue to bring to the forefront more gems of creativity as they both “take back responsibility” to give back to their respective communities the best gift of all: transcendent hope and self-empowerment. As we prepare to mobilized the largest youth vote in history for the 2012 elections next year, “Watch the Throne” will help all of us to “Watch the White House” again with massive voter registration, turnout, and civic revitalization. As an OG, I am grateful to Jay-Z and Kanye West for paying the path for generations to come.

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

Republicans are on the Wrong Side of the African American Jobs Crisis

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By Dr. L. Toni Lewis, Chair of SEIU Healthcare –

This summer, millions of working families got a front-row seat to the dysfunctional leadership of Republicans in Congress who proved once again that they just don’t get it.

The national unemployment rate is 9.1%. For African Americans, the unemployment rate is hovering around 16 percent.   Instead of creating solutions for the jobs crisis, Republicans are killing jobs and destroying the American Dream. Many African American families are experiencing the most dramatic blows in this economic depression. The unemployment rate is higher than any other group in the country. Incomes for African-American families plunged by more than 83 percent in the past eight years. And according to the Congressional Black Caucus, Republicans blocked more than 40 bills intended to create jobs that would help uplift African American communities. They didn’t stop there.

Republicans in Congress rewarded big corporations for shipping American jobs overseas but voted to cut Medicare and Medicaid to protect tax breaks for and billionaires and CEOs. Astonishingly, they continue to propose and pass more reckless policies and budget cuts that disproportionally impact people of color.

Thirty million Americans are still looking for work while Wall Street banks reap record profits and take home big bonuses—they’ve made over $100 billion since taxpayers bailed them out. The Republican leadership in Congress is doing nothing to help struggling families put food on the table, fill our gas tanks, save our homes from foreclosure and send our children to college.

Working families in this country are fed up with right-wing politicians coming up with new excuses to make budget cuts that kill jobs and put thousands of teachers and police officers in the unemployment line. We’re fed up with the tax giveaways to big corporations instead of investments in jobs that are the backbone of the American economy. We’re fed up with politicians constantly siding with Wall Street bankers and rich CEOs at the expense of working people.

It is clear: Republicans are on the wrong side of the jobs crisis and on the wrong side of the American Dream.  As members of congress head back to their districts for August recess, working families, including African American, should hold them accountable for failing to create jobs.

This August recess, it’s time to tell politicians to reset their priorities and fix the jobs crisis.

State of Black American Housing

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(NNPA) The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) just made an important game-changing announcement at its recent national convention in New Orleans. NAREB announced a historic engagement with Wall Street investors to launch a $800 million Homeowner’s Assurance Program (HAP) to address the devastating effects of the housing mortgage crisis for Black America and other minority families and communities across the United States. The state of Black American housing is in crisis more disproportionately than any other group in America. Combined with the unemployment crisis that has also increased the ranks of abject poverty in the African American community, the housing crisis makes it paramount that national organizations like NAREB step up to the plate with solutions to the economic challenges facing Black Americans.

The good news is that NAREB has gone considerably beyond describing the magnitude of the problems confronting the Black community in 2011 with respect to the array of critical housing issues. They are taking quantitative and qualitative financial action proactively and the Black community and other minorities engulf in the national housing and mortgage crisis will be the direct beneficiaries of the NAREM Housing Assurance Program (HAP). We all should be very grateful to the national leadership of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers for putting the real estate and housing interests of the Black community as a national priority.

If other African American professionals would consider following the leadership methodology that is being exhibited by NAREB on the housing issue as well as the other related critical economic empowerment issues challenges our families and communities, then the future of our plight for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment will be considerably advanced with greater progress and achievement.

Various Wall Street investors, including Paul R. Taylor, Jr. and Cicero Wilson of SRP Development Management, have committed to providing initial capital for the purchase of non-performing loans and REO assets up to $200 million per quarter for the HAP initiative of NAREB beginning this month, August 2011. At the NAREB conference in New Orleans, representatives of one of the top four national banks in the United States also indicated the HAP initiative has the potential over the next several weeks and months to attract additional capital and non-performing loan or bank-held mortgages to the tune of $1.2 billion per month.

Thus, the sheer magnitude of what the NAREB is launching has already caught the immediate attention of the major players in the U.S. banking industry. We are talking about the financial recovery and economic development of the Black community through the systematic recovering of property and real estate ownership. The wealth and empowerment of African Americans is directly related to homeownership. This not about giving charity, this is about gaining back a sense of self-reliance, responsibility and empowerment for our communities. We need more homeowners with mortgages that they can afford. NAREB understands this point and is taking an important step forward to assist brothers and sisters in our community to be viable homeowners again.

Prior to announcing the innovative Housing Assurance Program, NAREB published a Public Policy Paper on Housing and African Americans. The policy paper documented that Black communities have borne a disproportionate share of the damage from foreclosed real estate left in the wake of the country’s severe housing and economic crisis. The accelerated rate of massive evictions of Black families from their foreclosed homes, and the subsequent dumping of foreclosed or abandon properties in Black and other minority communities without a sustainable recovery solution is now causing a new and expanded crisis of undervalued and/or vacant blighted properties throughout our neighborhoods. NAREB President-Elect Julius Cartwright stated, “An innovative housing assistance program and strategy are needed. Many of the current programs are ineffective and they do not adequately address all the needs in our nation’s communities, particularly minority communities.” We are with Julius Cartwright and that is why we salute the initiative of NAREM.

The Joint Center for Political Studies, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and many other national organizations will work collaboratively with NAREB with respect to the Housing Assurance Program. Time is of the essence and we need to get the word out throughout the Black community about this program. People do suffer from the lack of knowledge and understanding. NAREM has the knowledge and the professional experience on the critical issue of housing. Now it is our task to promote the sharing of this information and to create a groundswell of understanding and awareness. The future economic recovery of the Black community is at state. Let’s work together to turn this crisis into an opportunity for economic empowerment.

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

Fixing the Social Security Disaster

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(NNPA) The pyramid building of our Social Security System is beyond completion. In fact, it takes three young workers to contribute the retirement funds for one retiree. The pyramid is going to be inverted before long. Congress has borrowed so much of the Social Security coffers for other things that it will be impossible to survive as it now stands. Yes, the time to do something is now or our credit rating will be downgraded again shortly. People, we are in a real economic mess. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are the three big monsters and I strongly urge our political leaders to become courageous and take the leadership needed to save our nation.

How do we change Social Security for the better? There is already a model. The nation of Chile started its current system decades ago and it works! The first thing we should start doing is to not mess with anyone’s contributions. What you put in is what you will eventually take out plus any interest that is accrued. Merging everyone into the same pot is hideous. What is even worse, our present system does not allow your contributions to be assignable to your heirs. Children under 21 can get some proceeds but after that papa’s or mama’s social security bank will close. The money is gone and the family gets no legacy.

In Chile you can choose how you want to park your social security contributions. The money is guaranteed and when you die, regardless of your age, the money passes on to your loved ones. Speaking of death, Black males have the lowest lifespan. Thus, for the most part Black families get very little from the social security program as we know. We contribute from the start with our first paycheck and all of that is gone forever when we die if our children are grown up.

Why do we tax our businesses with FICA (social security tax)? That money doesn’t go to anyone’s social security account. It goes to the greedy federal government. Our businesses certainly pass the amount of FICA to the consumers – that’s all of y’all. In Chile businesses aren’t burdened with FICA taxes.

Please don’t be afraid. I am not proposing that we all start this plan immediately. Obvious, it is too late for our senior citizens. But what if we gave an option to this plan for people the age of 45 or lower? Yes, a choice for each worker. They did this in Chile and a few started using this private account plan. Today, over 90% of the working population of Chile chooses the private plan. They are building wealth via a handsome retirement account and businesses are being taxed like they were before. The Chile model is a success and we need to start moving in that direction. Today, our parents work hard their entire lives and when they die at a faster and greater rate than any other race in this country all we have left is a funeral to pay for. Uncle Sam pockets the money (their accrued social security)!

It just isn’t fair and it doesn’t work at all. The baby boomers are going into retirement and it will be impossible for this nation to cover their social security retirement. Which way should we go? We need to begin a new system like that of Chile. The infusion of new businesses starting from less taxation and the guaranteed inheritance that will be passed on to surviving family members would be immense.

The current system amounts to Blacks passing their built up social security pots onto whites who live noticeably longer lives. We are getting very little for the money we put in. It should be ours! Your heirs should enjoy this and it should not be taxable as you have already paid your taxes and we should have another “death tax” system.

We should find some champions in Congress to start this “ball rolling”. It will take a lot of educating but the sooner we start, the sooner we begin ending the current mess. Our current debt will be our downfall if we don’t start managing our economy in a better way. Ignoring a system that doesn’t work isn’t going to make things better. Kicking the “can” down the road is over. The road has come to an abrupt end and we better channel our programs so that they can actually work and be beneficial to our future.

We can have a private account system that will make your contributions guaranteed and assignable to your heirs. The system we have now is not really guaranteed. It is going to collapse to the detriment of everyone. In the name of saving America let’s begin a new and better way.

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

A Tale of Two Cities – or Two Parties?

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(NNPA) It really isn’t a contrast of two distinct cities. Charlotte, North Carolina and Tampa, Florida have a lot in common. They are National Football League cities with a recent history of growth and cutting edge technology leading to much business growth. They are two southern cities on the economic move and striving to become even greater. Because of this they were each selected to become the venues of two of the most important conventions in our recent history. Charlotte will become the venue for the 2012 Democratic National Committee Convention. Likewise, Tampa will become the venue for the 2012 Republican National Committee Convention. This is where the two comparisons start to contrast significantly.

Tampa won an NFL franchise as well as a Major League Baseball franchise by being a diverse community. It prides itself in this and promotes it as a selling point when it bids on conventions such as the RNC Convention. Living up to this commitment, it presented its minority business inclusion program to the RNC for 2012. The Republican Party adopted it totally. We will discuss the significance of this later.

Charlotte, likewise, has won an NFL franchise as well as a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise because of its progressive and diverse policy. Here is where the contrast begins. They won the 2012 Democratic National Committee convention and soon presented their in place program. It was soundly rejected by the DNC. The Democratic National Committee wanted no part of a diversity program. It got so contentious that the DNC stated “No diversity or no convention.” The city government of Charlotte was dumbfounded and confused how such a large organization would take such a racist stand.

It should come as no surprise. The DNC has a long track record of discrimination in its business opportunity practices. You can go back to the Dixie Crats segment of this party that would refuse any Black participation at its conventions and even in 2008 refused Black vendors from participating in the procurement opportunities of it convention. The procurement opportunities are reserved for the “good ol’boys” and they are lily white. It is the legacy of the DNC – Jim Crow business practices. The Ku Klux Klan and the DNC were hand in hand on much of the political history of this nation. A lot of that still sticks and it shows its ugly head today in Charlotte, NC at its upcoming convention. I challenge them to change their racist ways. I am waiting.

In contrast to the DNC racist operandi, the RNC has a beginning with diversity. The co-founders of the RNC were diverse. It included the great Black orator Frederick Douglas who challenged the incorporators every step of the way to include Blacks. He was successful. Another champion was the great Booker T. Washington who stated “Faith, education, entrepreneurship and communication” were the four keys to Black empowerment. He was so convincing that moguls such as Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford funded his National Negro Business League which was the forerunner to the National Black Chamber of Commerce and started 10 years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, invited him to the White House for dinner. This enraged the lily white Democratic National Committee so much that they formally protested and started rival groups to oppose Mr. Washington – the NAACP and Urban League.

Here we are today with the DNC blocking a great city, Charlotte, who has a program to include all of its citizens in the business opportunity process, by resisting any semblance of equal opportunity. This city is struggling economically like the rest of us but even CNN has done a recent study on the Black middle class of Charlotte. They are disproportionately hurting by this downturn in our economy. Here comes the DNC to pour “salt” onto those wounds. They want no part of Black entrepreneurs participating in the business opportunities of their convention. They have Black groups strung out and bought off to their rhetoric and absolutely do not have to share any business exchanges with the “coloreds”. They sing the music and we dance. It is a shame but until we become aware of this hustle we will continue to suffer.

Just how much opportunity does a political convention offer? Think of a Super Bowl. It brings billions of dollars to a city. The dollars flow from the hotel owners to the shoe shine stands and everything in between. A national political convention is equal to 12 Super Bowls. Twelve times the amount! So, what is possible for Tampa is an economic boom that will bless all segments of its population. What Charlotte has is a potentially missed opportunity for its minority businesses and job creation for all because an outsider comes to town and is adverse to diversity – simply racist.

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

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