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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.

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

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