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The Untold Story of One of Our Native Sons

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By Lenora D. LeVias –

I thought I would share with you the untold story of an unsung hero who is making a difference in the lives of young Black men as well as providing a means to keep thousands of residents past and present connected to the City of Compton. About 15 years ago this gentlemen started the Friendship Society, comprised of Compton, Centennial and Dominguez High School Alumni. There are two major events that is sponsored by the Friendship Society, the summer picnic that is held annually which provides fun, food and a great softball game between Compton, Centennial, and Dominguez at the end of the game one the Alumni teams takes home the 3ft. trophy.

During the fall of each year an all schools reunion is given by the Friendship society it is one of the most highly anticipated events given. It is usually held at the Hollywood Park Casino and has over 1200 in attendance.

Everyone shows up and shows out in their classy attire for an evening of dining and dancing and reuniting.

For nearly 30 years this unsung hero has provided legal services for thousands of individuals all over southern California.

He has caused many people to regain trust in our legal system because of the services his company provides. You cannot stay in business nearly 30 years if you’re not doing something right. Much of his business is repeat business due to the integrity of his company.

But, aside from bringing people together for a good time and building his own company that has been in our community for nearly thirty years, making sure we get the best legal representation for whatever our legal need maybe, this unsung hero has a passion to build up strong young Black men to be our leaders for tomorrow. As a mentor himself of several young men he wanted to do more, so he has established a very unique program that is based at Compton High School.

Let me introduce to you the unsung hero who has now established: The Arthur Jay Levias Presidential Scholarship Awards Program.

This program is being funded solely by Arthur Jay LeVias, which requires that the young African American men at Compton High dress every day, Monday through Friday with shirt, tie slacks or suit. They are required to write an essay each week for the first month of the program, designated advisors check their rating sheet each day and the scholarship committee judges their essays, topics provided by their counselors or advisors.

For the first four weeks of the program Mr. LeVias awarded $1400, each week 3 winners were selected and awarded $100 each. The first week Mr. LeVias had only five participants so he awarded each young man with $100. Put each week the number of participants have increased and each week there has been three winners. The final award is $1000 to be awarded in June 2011, to the young man who has been most consistent, most respectful and shows what a Presidential awardee really looks like. It’s going to a tough competition because there’s a winner in all of them.

This program has absolutely changed the lives of these young men because they see hands on that this man really cares and is willing to invest in them just so they can have a greater respect for themselves.

McDonald's Adds 50,000 Jobs

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“You're only as good as the people you hire.”

Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation

(NNPA) In March, the American economy added 216,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent, the lowest in two years. That is the good news. The bad news is that the nation has a mighty long way to go to recoup the 13 million jobs lost during the great recession. The real bad news is that with an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent for African Americans and 11.3 percent for Hispanics, communities of color seem to be fighting a losing battle to keep from being overwhelmed by the jobs crisis.

For more than two years, the National Urban League has led the call for a national response to extremely high unemployment throughout urban America. Our Jobs Rebuild America 12-point plan offers a blueprint for change. It calls for the restoration of the Summer Youth Jobs Program to provide summer jobs for millions of teens. We also propose greater public/ private investments in job training for those most at-risk for joblessness and least equipped to navigate their way back to gainful employment. And, while Washington thus far does not appear to be listening, we have sought and found allies elsewhere, including some in corporate America.

For example, we are pleased that this week, McDonald’s Corporation, is launching an unprecedented hiring campaign, aimed at adding 50,000 new crew and management employees to its payrolls. The company plans to add 3-4 new workers to each of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. In addition to providing a pathway back to the dignity of work, many of these new “Mcjobs” come with training, flexible work schedules, competitive benefits, scholarship opportunities and growth potential. The company points out that more than 75 percent of its restaurant managers and many of its corporate staff and executive leadership, including current company president, Jan Fields, started behind the counter.

McDonald’s projects that the addition of 50,000 new employees will boost the economies of states and local economies, which can likely expect an additional $430 million spent on housing, almost $186 million in taxes, and $180.5 million in grocery purchases.

African American teens, 38.5 percent of whom are currently unemployed, may especially benefit from this hiring blitz. The unemployment rate for Black teens consistently hovers near 40 percent, the highest rate of any group in the country. In addition to putting thousands of Black teens on successful career paths, each year McDonald’s selects one high school student-employee from each state and the District of Columbia for $2,500 scholarships, as well as three national “McScholar” winners who each receive $5,000 scholarships.

The National Urban League will continue to push for federal action in response to the jobs crisis in urban America. In the meantime, we applaud McDonald’s for doing its part with its “National Hiring Day.” More jobs mean a stronger economy and a better future for our children, our neighbors, and our nation.

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

Weakening Our Warriors?

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By Anthony Hawkins –

(NNPA) After 10 years in Afghanistan and eight in Iraq, the United States Army now boasts the most battle-tested soldiers since World War II. Yet, the Army also faces a readiness crisis more dangerous than any firefight. A woeful reluctance on the part of President Obama and Congress to fund essential Army programs now threatens to fundamentally weaken our ground forces even as the Middle East destabilizes right before our very eyes.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently canceled the Army’s top modernization program and has suggested force reductions while Congress continues to take bites out of critical Army programs.

Certainly, Secretary Gates’ calls for reform are right on the money: the Army must stop spending more than $3 billion each year in programs that are eventually canceled. However, the Army cannot finish the job in Afghanistan or prepare for future battles without bipartisan support in Congress for filling three essential funding needs.

First and foremost, the Army needs a combat-ready wireless network that is fast, mobile, and secure.

You might not believe it, but many teenagers are more connected through their smartphones and iPads than are U.S. soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan. This is because warzones don’t support the kind of expensive and vulnerable telecommunications infrastructure – cell towers and signal amplifiers – that make it possible for us to search the Internet while stuck in traffic. Soldiers need this same capability during a firefight.

Through its Brigade Combat Team Modernization program (BCTM), the Army is now building an early version of this network that would install network nodes on Humvees and use them as mobile cell towers. However, Congress and the Pentagon have taken turns cutting back the funding for BCTM, slowing it down, and limiting its deployment. Critics have fairly pointed out that the Army needs to reduce the price of this network and improve its bandwidth and reliability through testing, but no one argues that our soldiers do not need this capability. We need to be delivering it to them faster.

Second, our soldiers need a new ground combat vehicle (GCV) that will protect its occupants against threats like roadside bombs, transport a full infantry brigade, and is capable of engaging in peacekeeping on one city block and full-scale combat on the next.

For the last decade, soldiers have relied on a motley mix of mine-resistant troop-transport vehicles that don’t perform well in combat and 1970’s-era tanks that are too heavy to take on patrol. Efforts to build a new GCV have faltered due to debates about its requirements and bureaucratic navel-gazing over its operational utility. The Pentagon should make delivering a new GCV to soldiers a top priority and Congress should allocate the funds necessary to make it a reality.

Thirdly, and lastly, soldiers at the platoon level need more sophisticated training to cope with their new responsibilities in today’s conflicts.

Afghanistan and Iraq are becoming known as the “captains’ wars” for the way victory or defeat has depended on the quick decision-making of soldiers at the company and platoon level. Funding advanced cultural, political, and language studies for the captains on the front lines will ensure that they are prepared to make effective, ethical decisions in the heat of battle.

Seemingly consumed by our economic woes, President Barack Obama and Congress are in danger of hollowing out our Army and leaving us ill prepared to address conflicts like the one in Libya. There should be wide bipartisan support for funding the essential programs that will rebuild and strengthen an Army already sharpened by a decade at war.

Anthony T. Hawkins is National Coordinator of the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust in Washington, D.C.

National Urban League Trains African Americans for Corporate Boards

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(NNPA) What do American Express, Merck, Xerox, Darden Restaurants, and Citibank have in common? All are Fortune 500 companies headed by African Americans: Ken Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express; Ken Frazier, President and CEO of Merck; Ursula Burns, Chairwoman and CEO of Xerox – the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company; Clarence Otis, President and CEO of Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden; and Dick Parsons, former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, Inc., now Chairman of Citibank.

That is an impressive line-up of corporate titans. But, African Americans still represent a miniscule fraction of board-level corporate leadership in America. The National Urban League, in partnership with Advance America, has established a new training program to give other qualified African Americans the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

According to a 2009 study by the non-profit Executive Leadership Council, the percentage of African Americans filling Fortune 500 board seats actually declined from 2004 to 2008. It now stands at a meager seven percent, despite the fact that Blacks now comprise 13 percent of the population.

This lack of representation has negative consequences for consumers and corporate America. African American voices and perspectives are needed on corporate boards to ensure that business decisions affecting Black America are both responsible and sensitive to the needs of our communities. And, with growing economic clout of African American consumers, it is just plain good business sense for public companies to promote inclusion and diversity up and down the corporate ladder. We know that companies with board members reflective of the gender and ethnic diversity of the consumers they serve generally produce higher profits and greater value for their shareholders.

Thanks to the efforts of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act included an amendment addressing the need for greater diversity in the workforce of government contractors with the establishment of a new Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. In October, the National Urban League and Advance America, the nation’s leading provider of cash advance services, took it one step further by teaming up to address the serious under-representation of African Americans on various NYSE and NASDAQ boards of directors.

Clint Allen, Founder and President of the Corporate Directors Group, an organization of nearly 1100 public company board members, and which offers the only professional director certification said, "this group of seven outstanding National Urban League director candidates completed a minimum of thirty hours of education including public company director governance, regulation and strategy. They are prepared to serve a public company as professional and competent board members."

The goal of our Director Inclusion Initiative is to equip qualified professionals with the tools and training they need to be successful in the boardroom.

Advance America Board Chairman Billy Webster said his company “is honored to partner with the National Urban League in this endeavor to empower dozens of new executives. As a board chairman, I know that this initiative offers some of the best and brightest young professionals an opportunity to maximize their potential in the public company structure, while also enhancing the business capabilities of the companies they will serve.”

We agree. There is a growing pool of qualified African Americans ready to take their place at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. The Director Inclusion Initiative is a long overdue opportunity that will give them that chance.

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

Mayor Marion Barry is Right on Educational Reform

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By Gary L. Flowers –

“All public schools should be ‘choice’, and students should be ‘chosen’”

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

(NNPA) I read with affirmative agreement the opinion of Marion Barry published in the Washington Post on Sunday, April 10, 2011, entitled “School reform has passed low-income neighborhoods by”.

After all, Mr. Barry has strong educational credentials on which to base his opinion. Prior to his distinguished political career as mayor of Washington D.C.—and revitalizing the nation’s capital in economic development—he was a grade-A scholar and student leader. In 1959, Barry was the top chemistry student in his home state of Mississippi, and later a chemistry major at Fisk University. As a student leader, Mr. Barry was selected to attend Boy’s Nation, where he met political geniuses in persona of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Mayor Willie Brown. The three in their own right would contribute mightily to educational reform in Illinois, California, in particular, and the entire nation in general.

I concur with Mayor Barry’s philosophy that the most educationally needy public school districts in America should receive the most funding. We can look no further than the example of water seeping through the cracks of a leaky wall. Wise is the repairer who addresses the portions of the wall reflects breaches. The same is true for educational reform. For starters, school districts in the most need should receive the most money. In the nation’s capital and throughout America “school reform” has by-passed the poor.

Instead, in many public school neighborhoods with the highest per capita income receive the most funding based on a property real estate formula. Such formulas are inherently weighted to the wealthy. For example, the so-called school reform plan proposed by former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and former school Chancellor Michelle Rhee put low-income neighborhoods in the back of the proverbial funding class. For example, $225 million dollars in D.C. went to wealthy wards, while only $93 million was received in poorer wards.

To add insult to injury, Fenty and Rhee promoted private corporations (Wall Mart etc.) to provide funding for charter schools in Washington on the flimsy legal distinction that charter schools are technically public schools. Not really. Charter schools have investors who seek a return on their financial investment. When Mr. Barry and those of us who “smelled a rat” voted to unseat Adrian Fenty (and thus Michelle Rhee) Wal-Mart threatened to retract its funding offer to the D.C. public schools unless the new mayor, Vincent Gray, retained Michelle Rhee. Michelle Rhee’s contract was not renewed and now she has been hired by the New Jersey Department of Education with the aid Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s private money. The irritating irony is that the disparity of funding and the wooing of private dollars for public education in Washington, D.C. have taken place under the nose of the United States Department of Education.

Nationally, the federal government only contributes 9% of all funding for public education in America. Nearly every industrial country around the world fully funds its public school system except the United States. America cannot educationally compete with world powers such as China and India without a fully funded public school system.

Mr. Barry makes a compelling point that there effective school reform should the establishment and development of high quality schools in every neighborhood, to include a set of goals and programs aimed at greatly reducing truancy and dropouts while increasing graduation rates.

Yet, I believe in even more structural educational reform in the United States. Congress should enact a Constitutional Amendment to make an equal and high quality education an individual right of all children, regardless of resources (via existing legislation sponsored by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. [D-IL] and articulated in his book, A More Perfect Union). Furthermore, the White House and Congress should at least support and enact, respectively, significantly raising the percentage of federal funding for public education. Both are critical in ensuring equal educational opportunity for every American student.

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

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