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National Urban League: “Black Vote Critical to Obama Victory”

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President holds edge among African American voters

Chris Levister

In its report “The Hidden Swing Voters: The Impact of African Americans in 2012,” the National Urban League sends a clear message: “The Black Vote Does Matter.”

One of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations says the number of Black voters who turn out to vote in the upcoming elections could play a huge role in several swing states. A swell of Black voters was the difference in several states in 2008, according to the report, which focused on North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio in particular. "Essentially, African American voters in a number of key states hold the key to the outcome of the 2012 election," Marc Morial, the Urban League's president, said.

According to the July 2012 report, the voter turnout rate among African Americans jumped 5 percentage points between 2004 and 2008, from 60 percent to nearly 65 percent. The 2008 election also saw 2.4 million more Black voters cast ballots than in 2004 -- more than double the pace at which the country's Black population grew.

Black voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama’s victory in 2008, and African Americans are considered solidly behind Obama now. But having achieved the milestone of electing Obama as the nation’s first Black president, Black voters may be less motivated to return to the polls in droves again, the Urban League said. Assuming no change in 2008 voting patterns, Urban League researchers said, Black turnout at about 60 percent or below could cost Obama North Carolina and make it difficult for him to win Ohio and Virginia. In addition to diminished voter enthusiasm, the still-ailing economy, persistent high unemployment among Blacks, new state voting laws and limited growth in the African American population could help discourage turnout.

“President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted and he is working to secure the same levels of support based on policies that give everyone a fair shot and the opportunity to succeed,” said Clo Ewing of the Obama campaign. She cited the payroll tax, job training, education and health care reform as areas the president has worked hard to improve. She noted that all these efforts benefit African Americans. Obama and presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stand in a virtual dead heat in North Carolina, according to Real Clear Politics. Obama boasts a narrow, albeit widening lead in Ohio and a small, shrinking lead in Virginia.

Winning North Carolina was seen as a major and symbolic for then- Senator Obama, when he barely edged out Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to capture the state's 15 electoral votes. North Carolina had been a reliably Republican state in presidential elections since 1964 -- it had only voted for a Democrat once in three decades until Obama’s 2008 win. Virginia, which Obama also won in 2008, had not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the last 10 elections going back to 1972. Ohio, the third state in the study and another won by Obama in 2008, is a famous bellwether of national elections. Ohio has voted for every presidential winner, except one, since 1944. The Urban League study found that Black turnout, by percentage of eligible voters, nearly reached parity with that of White voters in 2008. "In 2008, there was only a 1.8 percent difference in Black and White turnout," said Chanelle Hardy, the Urban League's policy director.

"That's just an amazingly high water mark for democracy. Armed with that information, we're in a strong position to tell each and every African American voter -- 'your vote does matter’." African-American voters are the most likely group to actually vote if they are registered, according to the study. About 93 percent of registered Blacks vote in national elections, compared to 90 percent of Whites and 84 percent of Hispanics.

But it was among younger voters that the surge of African Americans to the polls was most evident. Among voters between 18 and 44, Blacks actually outpaced Whites. For the first time in history, Whites were not the biggest proportion of an age group, Madura Wijewardena, an analyst at the Urban League said.

Morial said that given these trends, it's not a coincidence that Republican-dominated legislatures have passed voter ID laws, which require voters to provide certain forms of official ID in order to vote. "We think it has a lot to do with the fact that you had extraordinary turnout in 2008," he said.

Obama is set to address the National Urban League Conference on July 25 in New Orleans. The conference is focused on increasing employment for African-Americans, who now face a jobless rate of 13.6 percent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than the national average. The high unemployment rate has prompted African-American leaders in the past to appeal to Obama to resist making deep cuts to programs that benefit urban communities. Less than four months from Election Day, President Obama has an edge in support among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, groups that could swing the race in November. He retains the power of incumbency and people generally like him. But there are growing indications that Obama's supporters aren't as enthusiastic about him as they once were, and the Democrat no longer is in a fundraising league of his own, with Republican Mitt Romney and GOP-leaning groups raking in the campaign cash. Plus, the shaky economy, which crashed in fall of 2008 and helped Obama capture the presidency, is a huge vulnerability. Come November, The National Urban League warns a sustained economic slowdown could trump all of his other advantages.

In the tradition of the Wild West the journey continues . . .

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by Lea Michelle Cash

Although there are thousands of African American cowboys who helped to shape the history of America’s West, there is no greater documented legend than William “Bill’ Pickett. Bill Pickett was born in 1870, five years after the Civil War ended. He was the second of 13 children born to former slaves. He completed the fifth grade and at the age of 10 became a cowhand. Observing the relationship between cattle and the bulldogs that were used to control them, Pickett used the bulldog’s skills as a human, and he titled the skill “Bulldoggin”. Mastering this exceptional talent of “bulldoggin” which includes, grabbing a steer by the horns, biting their upper lip, and wrestling them to the ground, history records was an amazing event to watch Pickett perform. He became known by the nicknames “The Dusty Deamon” and “The Bull dogger.” Along with other tricks and stunts, he performed “bulldoggin” at County fairs and Wild West shows.

His career spanned over 40 years as a professional cowboy and rodeo champion becoming the first black cowboy movie star. He also rode wild broncos and bulls. Bill Pickett performed all over the world even performing for the British Royal Family. There is no other cowboy like him. Often times to compete in rodeos where blacks were not allowed, to compete against whites, he would turn to his Indian ancestry (his mother being half Cherokee Indian).

Over the years, the “bulldoggin” skill that Pickett invented became known as “Steer Wrestling”. Although biting the steer’s upper lip is no longer permitted due to the ethical treatment of animals, “steer wrestling” is a major featured event at all rodeos. Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame called the “Greatest Cowboy” of his day. It has been 28 years, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) continues to create and preserve the history and contributions of African American cowboys. Lu Vason, the BPIR Founder, and President said, “The rodeo has blossomed into something larger than I ever could imagined. We are now celebrating our 28th anniversary and I remain very humble and blessed to have created an event that is family oriented, educational and entertaining at the same time.” Recently on Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22, at the City of Industry’s Expo Center, hundreds of spectators young and old gathered to watch black cowboys and cowgirls compete in eight major rodeo events labeled as “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” The events were Bare Back Ridin, Bull Doggin, Calf Ropin, Steer Undecoratin, Barrel Racin, Calf Scramblin, Relay Racin, and Bull Ridin—all absolutely spectular.

The Grand Marshall of this year’s event was famed actor and cowboy Glynn Turner, and the Co-Grand Marshall was noted actor and cowboy Reginald T. Dorsey. The coordinator for the LA area event is Margo Ledrew Wade. The Black Voice News has been a proud sponsor of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo for many years, celebrating the legacy and lives of black cowboys. The BPIR travels to several cities across the country every summer in July. For next year’s 2013 event, please go to website www.billpickettrodeo.com.

NAACP Mourns the Loss of Willis Edwards

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(Baltimore, MD) - The NAACP mourns the passing of civil rights icon and long-time NAACP leader Willis Edwards. He was 66 years old.

"Our dear friend and colleague Willis Edwards embodied the spirit of the NAACP," stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. "Willis attended his duties with great humility and greater passion. His accomplishments in the civil rights arena speak to a career that defies narrow definition. Willis promoted and protected the image of African Americans in the arts; he shaped and expanded the vision of the NAACP National Board of Directors; and he tore down barriers to honest conversation about HIV/AIDS in communities of color. He will be greatly missed."

"Willis Edwards was a towering figure in the NAACP and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "As a civil rights crusader, he continued in the tradition of those who came before him but also created new avenues to pursue justice in a changing world. His ingenuity made him a strong leader and a trusted advisor to so many freedom fighters across the country.”

In 1982, Edwards was elected President of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch. More recently, he served as First Vice President of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch. Edwards is credited with by many helping to build the coalition of producers and funders that led to the first NAACP Image Awards live on national television in 1986.

He also served on the National Board of the NAACP for 12 years in many different capacities. His roles included Vice Chair of the Image Awards, member of the NAACP Crisis Magazine Committee; member of the Executive Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee; member of the National Health Committee and chair of the sub-committee on HIV/AIDS. He recently stepped down from the Board of Directors and joined the NAACP Board of Trustees.

"Willis understood more than most, the nexus among race, culture and the arts," stated NAACP Board of Trustees Chairman Eugene Duffy. "He comprehended that how we are portrayed on the stage and screen, what is written by and about the people of the African Diaspora, defines not only how we see the world but how the world sees us. His legacy with the NAACP, particularly the Image Awards, will continue to serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come. The curtain has closed for Willis in this life but I certain he is center stage in heaven."

Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS late in life, Edwards developed a reputation as a strident spokesman for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. He was instrumental in guiding the NAACP's work with HIV/AIDS. He also worked with the Minority AIDS Project. His final project was the development of the NAACP manual "The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative," a handbook to help congregations stem the spread of the virus. NAACP Mourns the Loss of Willis Edwards

(Baltimore, MD) - The NAACP mourns the passing of civil rights icon and long-time NAACP leader Willis Edwards. He was 66 years old.

"Our dear friend and colleague Willis Edwards embodied the spirit of the NAACP," stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. "Willis attended his duties with great humility and greater passion. His accomplishments in the civil rights arena speak to a career that defies narrow definition. Willis promoted and protected the image of African Americans in the arts; he shaped and expanded the vision of the NAACP National Board of Directors; and he tore down barriers to honest conversation about HIV/AIDS in communities of color. He will be greatly missed."

"Willis Edwards was a towering figure in the NAACP and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "As a civil rights crusader, he continued in the tradition of those who came before him but also created new avenues to pursue justice in a changing world. His ingenuity made him a strong leader and a trusted advisor to so many freedom fighters across the country.”

In 1982, Edwards was elected President of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch. More recently, he served as First Vice President of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch. Edwards is credited with by many helping to build the coalition of producers and funders that led to the first NAACP Image Awards live on national television in 1986.

He also served on the National Board of the NAACP for 12 years in many different capacities. His roles included Vice Chair of the Image Awards, member of the NAACP Crisis Magazine Committee; member of the Executive Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee; member of the National Health Committee and chair of the sub-committee on HIV/AIDS. He recently stepped down from the Board of Directors and joined the NAACP Board of Trustees.

"Willis understood more than most, the nexus among race, culture and the arts," stated NAACP Board of Trustees Chairman Eugene Duffy. "He comprehended that how we are portrayed on the stage and screen, what is written by and about the people of the African Diaspora, defines not only how we see the world but how the world sees us. His legacy with the NAACP, particularly the Image Awards, will continue to serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come. The curtain has closed for Willis in this life but I certain he is center stage in heaven."

Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS late in life, Edwards developed a reputation as a strident spokesman for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. He was instrumental in guiding the NAACP's work with HIV/AIDS. He also worked with the Minority AIDS Project. His final project was the development of the NAACP manual "The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative," a handbook to help congregations stem the spread of the virus.

Edwards began his life in activism as a staffer on the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign and earned a Bronze Star in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He has worked with Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, arranging for Mrs. Parks to sit with First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton at the 1999 State of the Union Address. He served as Vice President of Development and Planning for the Rosa Parks Museum and Library in Montgomery, Alabama.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Edwards began his life in activism as a staffer on the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign and earned a Bronze Star in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He has worked with Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, arranging for Mrs. Parks to sit with First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton at the 1999 State of the Union Address. He served as Vice President of Development and Planning for the Rosa Parks Museum and Library in Montgomery, Alabama. Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Kommah Seray Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation Open House

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By John Coleman

Seven years ago when I met Koko (Kommah McDowell) she was a survivor of a recently diagnosed rare form of breast cancer. So rare was this form of cancer that her doctor originally misdiagnosed her condition. She changed her doctor and hospital, underwent serious surgery and chemotherapy and went through a long period of recovery. Young, very bright, and outgoing, she was unable to do things she usually could do for herself. She asked for help but found few agencies capable to offer the help she needed. She then asked people in her family, friends, and church, and they responded. They organized to take her back and forth to treatments, grocery shop, cook, clean and to complete planning for her upcoming wedding.

Through this trial, McDowell realized there was a need. In addition to rebuilding her health, she spent the next two years planning and preparing to provide the kind of organization and service program she desperately looked for.

In 2008, McDowell opened the Kommah Seray Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation (KSIBCF) in Covina partnering with the highly regarded City of Hope National Medical Center. KSIBCF operates a full calendar of programs and frequently is contacted by individuals and organizations offering fund-raising events and sponsorships. With the current climate of budget cuts, KSIBCF continues to accept clients who meet qualifying (medical) criteria and report their lists of "top three unmet needs" for a grant of up to $500.00 for a period of three months. These grants might cover grocery costs, utility bills, co-payments, in-home health services, and other needed services. The KSIBCF Survivor Assistance Service provides prosthetics like lymphadema sleeves or mastectomy bras and help for the tastes, smells, food avoidance and other side effects of chemotherapy. The Foundation recently held its open house at its new location 536 South Second St., Covina, Ca 91723. For more information on the foundation, contact 626.966.2900 or e-mail: Kommah-ksibcf@verizon.net.

“We Ain’t Crazy!” Eliminating Disparities in Mental Health Study documents lack of access in Black population

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By Chris Levister

“It is unpleasant to admit, but many African Americans do not receive appropriate mental health services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them. Why is that?”

It’s a question Dr. V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H. has been asking for more than a decade. At the national Black Mental Health Workers Conference in Los Angeles Tuesday Dr. Woods, president of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC) rolled out a 300 plus page report that paints a damning picture of how more than half of African American mental health sufferers receive little or no treatment…but account for a high rate of involuntary commitments.

One third of families have a member who is currently suffering from a mental illness, they say. It accounts for nearly half of absenteeism at work and mental illness accounts for nearly half of people on incapacity benefits. Why are some people not understood? California’s African American residents were interviewed and given the opportunity to share their real experiences with getting help with mental issues,” said Dr. Woods.

“We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways to Eliminating Mental Health Disparities in the Black Population,” is the comprehensive report of this 2-year long African American study that sought to answer one major question: What are community practices Black people believe would help them have good mental health? As well as, how are mental issues prevented from occurring in Black people?” Respondents say the stigma associated with mental issues, according to respondents, produced shame and embarrassment, which often determined if individuals sought help. "The thought of being labeled `crazy' and not normal rendered many black people psychologically paralyzed," the report said.

“In addition, having a mental issue is embarrassing. Most people do not recognize when they need help, and when they do, most people do not feel comfortable in asking for help with a mental issue,” said Woods.

Dr. Woods is the principal investigator, for a statewide team of Black strategic planning workgroup members tasked to develop a major statewide policy initiative to improve access and quality of care, as well as increase positive outcomes for historically underserved communities and ethnic and cultural population groups. “There were 1,195 individuals who participated in the African American study. Community-based participatory research methods were used that included 15 key informant interviews, 35 focus group meetings, 43 one-on-one interviews, 635 surveys, 5 case studies, 6 small group meetings and 10 public meetings. Individuals participated from over 30 California counties.

The research was contracted to AAHI-SBC through The California Department of Mental Health (DMH), in partnership with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) and funded by the Mental Health Service Act, Prop 63.

AAHI-SBC is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded the $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004.

The statewide initiative was called the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP), and focused on five populations that have the largest number of underserved individuals. The report provided important recommendations to address these shortcomings and to make quality mental health treatment a reality for all Americans. This report gave voice to thousands of African Americans who faced this grim reality. It also created an opportunity for people around the region to advocate for real change.

Mental health charities and specialists welcomed the report. Riverside psychiatrist Richard T. Kotomori Jr. M.D. specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“We are at an all-time low in the response of mental health services to people with severely disabling mental illness. While the Government has put money into psychological therapies, on the other hand resources are being drained from the fundamental care and treatment of people in crisis, those in need of in-patient care such as the suicidal, and those in the community where the cuts are depriving them of the few things that make their lives more tolerable, such as day centers, clubs, activities and occupation,” said Kotomori.

California psychologist Gloria Morrow contends that the distrust and stigma that blacks feel about mental-health treatment stem in part from difficulty in finding a therapist to whom they can comfortably relate. African Americans comprise less than 2% of licensed psychiatrists in California and less than 4% of mental-health providers nationally. Mental-health practitioners "don't 'get it' when they are working with people who don't look like them," she insists.

One effect is to shift sufferers into care settings not designed for recurring disorders such as depression. "We know that people are going to emergency rooms because of the stigma of going to a counselor," she explains.

They also experience difficulty in talking about their problems, especially to non-blacks. There is often a gulf of mistrust that is fed by both sides. A lack of knowledge has had a particularly negative impact on diagnosis and treatment. Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than with depression, and this is especially the case if they have manic depression. In the past, blacks have been offered antidepressant medication far less frequently than whites.

And despite evidence suggesting that blacks may metabolize psychiatric medications more slowly than whites, thus requiring lower dosages, they are often given higher dosages; as a result they experience more severe side effects than do whites, frequently prompting them to stop treatment altogether.

In 2001 former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher released Culture, Race and Ethnicity.

A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. This landmark report documented the lack of access and the poor quality of mental health care that people of color had been receiving when dealing with mental illness.

“Unfortunately, there has been little progress in overcoming barriers to treatment and in improving access and quality of care for communities of color,” said Woods. “Much still needs to be done to make access and recovery from mental illness a reality for all Americans.”

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