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Letter to the Editor: Vote of the People

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"As a small business owner and concerned citizen, I am tired of our city leaders making decisions without a vote of the people and forcing us to pay. I just recently heard that several local governments in California are trying to take over private electric businesses— often using eminent domain—and are refusing to let local voters have the final say in the decision, because state law doesn’t require it. That's how I started learning about how Proposition 16 establishes clear two-thirds voter approval requirements before local governments can spend public money or incur public debt to go into the local electricity business.”

Think about it right now---- California’s state and local debt exceeds $145 billion! Our annual state budget deficit is $20 billion or more. 12% of Californians are unemployed.

So, why allow city officials the ability to just up and decide that they can vote to run a business and use taxpayers’ money to buy this business.

It’s truly up to us as taxpayers to manage our own lives and businesses so that the future of our children are not overrun with huge government debts, high unemployment, homelessness and much, much more.

Chad Strickland
Small Business Owner
Los Angeles County

High Expectations at Hardy Brown College Prep

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When a school with large numbers of poor and minority students do well on state or national standardized tests, it comes as no surprise to the principal and teachers at that school. That’s because these educators begin their workday with the expectation that their students can and will do the academic work necessary to be successful.

From the first day of school to the last, they assess what knowledge and skills students already have and design learning experiences that will move students to where they should be. They know that some children will take longer than others to master the material. They know that some learn their lessons in ways that differ from those of their classmates.

But, these school leaders and teachers strive to find the right assignments, the best learning materials, and the most appropriate learning environment for their students. The faculties of such schools create opportunities for their children to be successful.

This is the kind of performance that parents in San Bernardino expect from Hardy Brown College Prep, a new school that will open in downtown San Bernardino on August 18, 2010. School founders expect to reach the state’s goal of an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 800 out of 1000 points within five years. That expectation is not a pipedream. Hardy Brown is modeled on a Sacramento charter school, called PS7 that made just that kind of academic progress between 2003 and 2009. PS7 achieved against the odds.

Unfortunately, while such schools are not easy to come by, they do exist. There are 13 elementary and middle schools in California with a numerically significant enrollment of African American students where Black students scored an 800 API or more. PS7, the model for Hardy Brown College Prep, earned an 873 API score in 2009, making it the second highest ranking school in California serving significant numbers of African American children.

We don’t usually hear much about these 13 schools, because much larger numbers of failing schools dominate the news. I visited schools on the list and asked principals how they get such great performance from students. It should be no surprise that students who do well in school do so because they spend quality time at home, in the library or in community study groups with their friends who are equally serious about preparing for their futures. Schooling works best when students and adults act upon their expectations by becoming totally immersed in their education.

But we cannot believe the hype—that it is impossible to do better because of the budget, the contract, the poverty, the neighborhood. We will only see progress when progress is expected, and effort matches our highest ambitions.

There is a predominately African American school in Chicago where, for the past 29 years, 100 percent of graduates have gone on to college. Each morning students at Providence St. Mel School sing a creed. It goes, “we believe in the creation of inspired lives produced by the miracle of hard work. We are not frightened by the challenges of reality, but believe that we can change our conception of this world and our place within in it.”

Beyond wishful thinking, their confidence, efforts, and perseverance match their expectations. And not surprisingly, children flourish.

Rex Fortune is founder of Fortune School of Education and the author of Leadership on Purpose, a study of high performing, high minority, high poverty schools.

Black Political Power Impossible Without Black Economic Power

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By A. Peter Bailey, NNPA Columnist –

Unfortunately, most Black folks consistently ignore the fact that an individual or group of people can never achieve political power without having economic power. The best one can do in that situation is to have varying degrees of political influence. However, if you have economic power, political power automatically follows.

That this avoidance of dealing seriously with economics is long-standing among most Black people is illustrated in a 1919 article from The Broad Ax, a Chicago Black newspaper, which noted that “we have as a people given too much of our zeal to politics, and vastly more of our substance to the church…. The economic principle and the spirit of commerce is the neglected child we long have failed to nourish. These principles, Economy and Industry, are the very foundation of the universe.”

Two reasons for this self-destructive neglect of economics are provided by eminent educators, Harold Cruse in “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” and Carter G. Woodson in “The Miseducation of the Negro.” Wrote Professor Cruse, “the reason that the debate on Black economy has gone on back and forth… is because the idea is closely associated with nationalism and the integrationists would rather be tarred and feathered than suspected of the nationalist taint….Building a Black economy could be done with the aid of attributes that the Negro has never developed i.e. discipline, self-denial, cooperative organization and knowledge of economic science.”

Dr. Woodson wrote in 1932 that “In the schools of business administration, Negroes are trained excessively in the psychology and economics of Wall Street and are, therefore, made to despise the opportunities to run ice wagons, push banana carts, and sell peanuts among their own people. Foreigners, who have not studied economics, but have studied Negroes, take up this business and grow rich.”

Concrete proposals on what can be done about such economic illiteracy are offered by Chancellor Williams in “The Destruction of Black Civilization” and legendary businessman, Earl B. Dickerson in a 1976 Ebony article.

Williams urged the setting up of a Division of Economic Planning and Development that “should be the foundation of the organized efforts and a principle source of support and promotion of the most important activities of the race. A guiding principle should be that all promoted community enterprises should be cooperatively owned and controlled by the community and that each enterprise be under highly-trained management and competent service personnel.”

Dickerson stated that “As more and more Blacks move into the middle class, they owe a responsibility to the Black community. If Blacks go into the White community to get the know-how, and then stay there, they are only pushing further away from the possibilities of Blacks ever becoming economically sufficient. I call upon these young men and women to get the experience, to get the foundation, and, before they are too old, to move into the Black community to help Blacks achieve economic equality. The economic insufficiency in the Black community can never be improved to any substantial extent merely by employing a few middle class Blacks….We’ve got to improve the purchasing power of the total community….”

In response to the guidance offered by these wise men, every Black church, civic organization, fraternity, sorority, school, college etc. should host workshops focusing on achieving economic empowerment.

Otherwise most of us will continue to be the kind of person/people who, to paraphrase legendary educator, Dr. Kelly Miller, pay for what we want and beg for what we need.

Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, and has contributed freelance articles to numerous publications. He can be reached at apeterb@verizon.net.

Jim Crow in Silicon Valley is Exposed

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This is the age of high technology. IT companies are leading the way in job growth and high paying jobs as the word does business at the speed of thought.

No place else in the world concentrates in this industry better than the Silicon Valley of California (Palo Alto – San Jose area). So with California having a minority population of 52 percent logic would dictate that this is a place of much diversity and opportunity for Blacks and Hispanics. Sadly, that, according to investigative reporting from the San Jose Mercury News is not the case. This industry in this location is probably the most segregated and discriminatory place in the United States. The hiring and training by companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Oracle, Applied Materials, Hewlett Packard, Cisco and others are acting more like the Ku Klux Klan than a good corporate citizen.

It is easy to do when traditional civil rights groups give you a pass as long as you provide sponsorship money for their fundraising events. Some groups even join with these culprits on advocacy and legislative issues as if these bastions of racism are examples of good inclusive governance. This is damaging and has caused these rascals to go free of public criticism until now.

The Mercury News used the Freedom of Information Act to get hiring data as late as 2005 from the US Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP), which tracks this under Executive Order 11246. Every two years major corporations are audited for their racial and gender demographics at all levels of hiring. The News tried to get 2008 data but companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Oracle and Applied Materials have successfully blocked access to that data in the courts. It is a good reason that they did as the numbers are just un-American.

Of the ten companies investigated here are the results. Collectively, only 2.1 percent of the workforce is Black while only 5.2 percent of the workforce is Hispanic. The News states “Of the 5,907 top managers and officials in the Silicon Valley offices of the 10 large companies in 2005, 296 were Black or Hispanic, a 20 percent decline from 2000, according to U.S. Department of Labor work-force data obtained by the Mercury News through the Freedom of Information request. In 2008, the share of computer workers living in Silicon Valley who are Black or Latino was 1.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively – shares that had declined since 2000.

Nationally, Blacks and Latinos were 7.1 percent and 5.3 percent of computer workers, respectively, shares that were up since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The share of managers and top officials who are female at those 10 big Silicon Valley firms slipped to 26 percent in 2005, from 28 percent in 2000.” This isn’t progress but a reversal of our gains during the Civil Rights Struggle.

What these racial culprits are doing should be punished by the U.S. Justice Department. It is blatant discrimination and must be stopped. Now that it is exposed we must put serious pressure on this activity. What they think they can do is import a massive amount of Asians via H-1B visas and count them in their collective minority numbers. First of all, only US citizens can be counted in these numbers and all groups, especially Black and Hispanic, must not be under represented. It violates law and should prohibit these corporations from doing business with the federal government or any other entity that receives federal funding or benefits from a federal program or regulation.

The NAACP, Urban League, La Raza, etc. should cease receiving money from these bigot corporations. Certainly they should stop doing their bidding and representing them as good outstanding corporate citizens.

They should be protesting and suing them in the courts.

They should put serious pressure on the U.S. government to enforce standing Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity laws.

If they don’t than I guess the National Black Chamber of Commerce will have to go after them in their absence like we did in the telecommunications and auto industries with success back in the 1990’s. It is not exactly our mission but someone has to do it.

Remember, there are reasons why we have triple the unemployment of the national average. This is one of them and no one is going to change the situation but us. We sometimes “sleep” with the enemy instead of beating them upside their heads. As Frederick Douglas taught us long ago, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and never will.” Wake up people they are trying to ruin us and destroy our children. This is not the time to be nice.

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

Just in Time: Obama Targets HBCUs for Increased Spending

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As the proud graduate of an Historically Black University and having worked in one for most of my academic career, I approve of President Barack Obama having broken his pledge not to govern by race or ethnicity just in time to increase spending for HBCUs. These institutions are still vitally relevant to the production of a Black middle class because, while they only constitute 3 percent of all institutions of higher education, they graduate 20 percent of all Black undergrads.

Announcing current increases in the FY 2012 Federal Budget was Dr. John S. Wilson, the new executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, who said that the President’s budget includes a $17 billion increase in Pell Grants, $400 million of which was earmarked for HBCUs. Last year, there was an uproar when it was discovered that the President took $85 million from the HBCU budget, but this year, rather than mandating it for two years as the Bush administration had done, this sum is included in the President Obama’s budget for 10 years.

There is also $98 million in new money proposed for HBCUs that would fund such things as financing for capital costs such as the repair and replacement of educational facilities and equipment, and the building of physical infrastructure. There is also proposed $65.4 million for the enhancement of graduate programs.

Wilson indicated that there is also $400 million of additional funds in the Education budget for institutions whose description was close that of HBCUs some of which he intends to attempt to acquire.

One of the greatest areas of lack of growth in the federal budget however has been in the funds generated by the government which goes to research at institutions of higher education. Some of it, in such areas as energy, defense, or agriculture, requires sophisticated engineering or scientific research facilities that most of these institutions do not have, but other grants in the social, administrative, and economic areas should be achievable.

This funding increase is also welcome news in light of the current economic crisis that threatens to continue the laggard growth of the Black middle class. The unemployment and home foreclosure crises put at severe risk the kind of capital that has enabled Black families to fund college enrollment in the previous generation and so many in this generation have a far more difficult time acquiring enrollment, remaining enrolled and potentially graduating. While some observers have been focused on academic performance as the major factor in Black college retention rates, economic factors have always been as important.

The general increase in higher education funding will help those in non-HUCU institutions as well. The other shoe to drop has been the fact that most Black youths are in state supported institutions, either four-year institutions or community colleges, and state governments have chosen to cut education budgets deeply to balance their budgets. This has caused a rise in the tuition rates, teacher furloughs and curriculum reductions at many institutions.

In most states, the education budget is the largest funded item and cuts in places such as California have recently drawn very visible protests from students and faculty. Federal funds given to states from the bank bailout (TARP) have disproportionately gone to support K-12, such that while the latter has suffered a 3 percent decrease in funding in California, higher education has suffered a 5 percent decrease.

While states are grappling for solutions to the problem of overall funding, I would suggest they should look at the amount of spending involved in holding non-violent offenders in prisons. Some states are now beginning to look at alternatives to incarceration more seriously than when they were just theoretical possibilities and some are actually letting prisoners go.

The State of California is typical of many where funding for the prison system has now overshadowed funding on education, a situation that is not sustainable in terms of future economic development of the State or balancing its budget. While the Governor says that now California spends 10 percent on prisons and 7 percent on higher education, the most alarming trend is that higher education spending has been declining since the tax limitation wars of the 1970s. It is time to break out of Republican-think about taxes and raise some revenue to fund higher education so that localities are not as dependent upon the Federal government.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, thanks for the help for HBCUs in this crisis.

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analysts and Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

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