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Tournament of Roses Float Honors Tuskegee Airmen

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When the West Covina Rose Float Foundation decided to honor the Tuskegee Airmen with the city’s annual entry in the New Year’s Day parade, float designers turned to archivists at the University of California, Riverside for help.

UCR Libraries house the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive, a growing collection of papers, photographs and oral histories of the pilots and others associated with the Tuskegee experience.

Charisma Floats, which is building the float designed by the award-winning Raul Rodriguez, contacted the UCR archive for information and photographs, including accurate profiles of the planes for painting and for patches and shields on the float, said Frank T, Scalfaro, chairman and president of the West Covina Rose Float Foundation.

UCR “was very helpful to help us achieve getting this information,” he said. The float, titled “Tuskegee Airmen – A Cut Above,” pays tribute to the service, bravery and commitment of the Tuskegee Airmen, Scalfaro said.

The Tuskegee Airmen, the group of African American pilots who trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, flew combat missions as bomber escorts in the European theater during World War II with few losses to enemy fighters. A total of 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses. They flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft and won more than 850 medals.

University Librarian Ruth Jackson said UCR was pleased to assist the float designers and the West Covina foundation with their research.

“The honoring of the Tuskegee Airmen by the West Covina Rose Float Foundation with the beautiful float to be included in the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade is another extension of national recognition and celebration of the many accomplishments of this distinguished group of African Americans during their World War II service and afterwards,” she said. “The unique role of the airmen and airwomen who broke race barriers in military aviation history and other areas of flight in later years, including commercial aviation and ultimately space flight, will be beneficial for minorities and the fabric of the nation for generations to come.”

The West Covina float – the city’s 12th consecutive entry in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade – will include 16 of the original Tuskegee Airmen as riders.

The riders and their cities of residence are: Harlan Leonard, Riverside; Isham “Rusty” Burns, Palm Desert; Dr. Robert McCoy (Rocky) Higginbotham, Rancho Mirage; Theodore Lumpkin, Los Angeles; Wilbert (Bill) Johnson, Los Angeles; Col. Louis Hill, Los Angeles; Mitchell Higginbotham, Dana Point; Oliver “Ollie” Goodall, Jr. , Altadena; Clarence (Red) Finley, Los Angeles; Jerry Hodges, Los Angeles; Larry E.

(Boon) Brown, Sacramento ; Dr. Thurston Gaines, Sun City West, Ariz. ; Robert Ashby, Sun City West, Ariz.; Dr. Granville (Duke) Coggs, San Antonio, Texas; Col. Charles E. McGee, Bethesda, Md. ; and Alexander Jefferson, Detroit, Mich.

The Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive includes oral history interviews with various of the airmen who will be riding on the float, including an interview with Goodall that can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/ucrwrtaa.

The archive also includes the papers of Mitchell Higginbotham which can be viewed, in part, online at


The archive, established in 2004, gathers the personal papers of pilots, mechanics, bombardiers and others who were part of the Tuskegee experience from their military service through careers as doctors, lawyers, judges, nurses, teachers, musicians and others.

“We’re interested in individual histories, not only from the Tuskegee years but also their contributions to society and their communities,” said Chuck Wilson, university archivist. “This archive is available for the public to get a better understanding of the Tuskegee experience and the people involved in it.”


Dreaming Of A Black Christmas

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Black families holding on to holiday customs in face of regions changing demographics

By Chris Levister –

The Christmas wreath hanging on the door of Ahmed and Assett Algotsson’s Riverside home is every bit traditional.

As if by magic, step inside to experience a decor set out to evoke strength and unity in Black families and communities. The fiery red, green and black Kwanzaa candles set the entrance aglow. Bright red shrouds from Madagascar used to celebrate the birth of Christ line the walls creating a dazzling backdrop for a 7-foot Christmas tree adorned with handmade African inspired ornaments.

In sharp contrast to the traditional images of a white snowy Christmas, replete with a Caucasian Christ child, majority inspired Christmas carols and White Santas, the Algotsson’s are reimaging Christmas and dreaming of a Black or at least Black-oriented holiday experience.

Increasingly Black families and faith commmunities are mixing Kwanzaa with their Christmas festivities recognizing their own images, symbols and cultural artifacts as something significant in the society at large. Pictured: Dr. David Sankofa Anderson, Rochester, NY.The vibrant colors, patterns and textures of different accessories unite an unexpected cultural mix of masks, raw silk curtains and an antique wrought iron bed frame. “We tell a thousand stories about ourselves and our experiences through the things that surround us,” said Asssett. “Color and texture move us spiritually and emotionally.” Fresh cranberry red Poinsettia plants in decorative clay pots from Ghana sit on curvaceous and sculptural furniture from the 1940s and 1950s. Brightly colored kentecloth table settings capture the timeless craftsmanship and imagination of African textile artisans.

Along with the familiar holly boughs and mistletoes the halls and rooms are decked with framed photographs of President Barack and Michelle Obama, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and family members wearing head wraps during past Kwanzaa gatherings.

A handcrafted Black Santa from South Carolina and a Haitian-inspired Nativity scene featuring three Black Wise Men and Madonna grace a stone and granite fireplace mantel. A handmade Christmas quilt made by Assett’s great grandmother preserves the family’s past.

Like the Algotsson’s, some families are substituting Kwanzaa, African and West Indian rituals for the traditional celebrations.

Others have created family traditions of their own to observe during the holiday season.

“Black families continue to celebrate Christmas in terms of its religious meaning,” notes Ahmed, a marriage and family counselor and expert on Black family. “But in a general sense, they’re recognizing their own images, symbols and cultural artifacts as something significant in the society at large.”

This recognition has manifested itself in many tangible forms.

“Increasingly, African American people have begun to think about the Kwanzaa principles of unity, self-determination and cooperative economics,” says Ahmed.

Kwanzaa celebrated over seven days between Christmas and News Year’s Day was created by Maulana Karenga, chairman of the Black Studies department at California State University in Long Beach.

Karenga saw the need to keep a sense of history and celebrate the values and principles of those people who struggled for justice and equality.

Concerned with the region’s rapidly changing demographics (Latinos expected to constitute a majority by 2015) Algotsson and his wife a school psychologist began to incorporate African and African-American decorations and customs into their Christmas in earnest after the birth of their children now ages 6 and 11.

As an educator Ahmed has taught the principles of Kwanzaa to young children and decided to teach his children.

“Increasingly they’re being bombarded with Latin influences,” recalling his daughter’s desire to serve tamales and menudo at last year’s Kwanzaa ceremony. “They learn about other people’s cultures, shopping, gift giving and materialism associated with Christmas. I wanted them to understand, celebrate and embrace our values, history and heritage as well.”

Algotsson says he talks with his kids about ujima (collective workand responsibility) and how they can apply it to everyday life.

“The gifts we give them are icons for the principles taught in Kwanzaa. The message is self sufficiency through teamwork. If every family practices these principles it will move us all ahead.”

As in the past, Black churches are mixing Kwanzaa with their traditional Christmas festivities to put more emphasis on community sharing and family togetherness.

On the culinary front , many Black families are adding hamhocks greens, cornbread, chitlins, sweet potato pies and other soul food favorites to the traditional ham, turkey and dressing Christmas fare. On New Years Day, the last day of Kwanzaa, the Algotsson’s plan to serve blackeyed peas, rice, greens, and gumbo for good luck.

The challenge facing our people, says Ahmed Algotsson is “not the defense of any culture or system, be it White, Latino, segregated or integrated; rather we have to preserve our own traditions of faith, work, responsibility and purpose, that we will be able to take our place wherever we are in the affairs of men.”


Minority Businesses Locked Out of Stimulus Loans

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Loans handed out to struggling small businesses as part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package have largely shut out minority businesses—especially those owned by Blacks and Latinos—according to data provided by the federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) to New America Media (NAM).

On June 15, the SBA, using money from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, launched the ARC program, America’s Recovery Capital, giving banks and credit unions 100 percent guarantees so they’re taking no risk when they make loans of up to $35,000 to previously successful , currently struggling small businesses to help them ride out the recession.

Under the program, the borrower pays no interest and makes no payments for 12 months, then has five years to repay the loan. SBA charges no fees and pays interest to the lender at prime – the rate of interest at which banks lend to favored customers – plus 2 percent. The Obama Administration does not report the racial breakdown of who’s benefiting from these loans at Recovery.gov, but data obtained by NAM from the SBA found that of the 4,497 ARC loans where the race of the borrower was reported, 4,104 (over 91 percent) went to white-owned firms, 140, (3%) went to Hispanic-owned businesses, and 151 (3%) went to Asian- or Pacific Islander-owned businesses. Only 65, (1.5%) went to Black-owned firms.

Overall, White-owned businesses received over $130 million in loans through the program, while Hispanic-owned businesses got $4 million and Black-owned businesses less than $2 million. In five states – Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming—every single firm that received an ARC loan was white-owned. In eight other states, including Louisiana and Nevada, all but one loan went to a whiteowned firm.

Civil rights groups and representatives of the minority business communities reacted with anger when told of NAM’s findings.

“It’s just horrendous,” said Anthony Robinson, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Minority Business Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF).

“During this economic recession, there is no recognition or sensitivity to the need to support and benefit people of color.”

“The data raises troubling questions” and should trigger an investigation,” says Oren Sellstrom of San Francisco’s Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. “This should be a red flag for the SBA and the banks. It gives us the indication that something may be amiss and further explanation is warranted.”

Census figures put Black business ownership at 5% and Hispanic business ownership at about 7% -- more than double the numbers getting these SBA-backed loans.

At the SBA in Washington, spokesman Jonathan Swain argued racial disparities in the ARC loan program don’t paint the full picture of the agency’s lending practices. Many of the SBA’s other loan products, he says, have large minority business participation.

For example, he says, minority-owned businesses receive 29% of loans given through the SBA’s regular

lending program and 37% of Microloans doled out by the agency.

“It’s hard to look at the ARC program by itself,” he told NAM. “It’s just one tool in the tool box, just one tool in the array to help small business in these tough economic times.”

One reason for the extremely low level of minority participation in the ARC loan program, he maintains, is that the Recovery Act specifically prohibits the agency from allowing an ARC loan to be used to refinance a regular SBA loan, which minority firms are more likely to have.

That explanation isn’t enough for minority business and civil rights groups, however. Sellstrom of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights isn’t convinced by that argument. “You would think that minority owned firms could use $35,000 for a lot of uses other than paying down SBA loans.”

Sellstom said SBA’s response only underscores the need for further investigation. “It’s often the case that the first explanation leads to further questions,” he said. Javier Palomarez, the president and chief executive officer of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says the ARC loan program was poorly designed and “destined to fail.”

When Congress was drafting the stimulus package, Palomarez said, his agency and other minority business groups argued the severity of America’s recession should have led to the government handing out loans to struggling small businesses directly – rather than simply backing up loans from the very banks that caused the country’s economic recession.

But the SBA and the banks lobbied against direct government financing of small business, he said, and so Congress devised a $35,000 loan program that requires a small business to wade through nearly the same paperwork needed to obtain one of SBA’s regular $2 million loans.

Because of the paperwork and the small sums involved, “most banks don’t want to participate in the loan program, and many of those that are participating are restricting applications only to long-term clients.”

And those long-term clients often exclude small, minority businesses, which banks see as “risky.” “There’s been a dramatic rise in the risk profile of small businesses,” Palomarez said “and that is even more pronounced among minority entrepreneurs.

“African American and Hispanic entrepreneurs often self-financed their start-ups or expansions, meaning, that they tapped into their own net worth … taking out home equity loans or second mortgages to invest in their communities and create jobs.”

“These businesses did not get a bailout and, while the Administration has been generous with tax credits for struggling businesses, the banks that caused this problem are nowhere to be seen,” he said. James Ballentine, senior vice president of the American Bankers Association, told New America Media the banks have nothing to do with the racial disparities apparent in the stimulus’ small business loans.

“When somebody comes to us, we don’t look at their race,” he said. “The can be red, white, brown, or green. The only thing we look at is their credit worthiness.”

The main problem, Balletine, said, is “there’s been a real lack of marketing and as a result, very few lenders have participated.” He noted that in the six months since the ARC Loan program was first announced, the SBA has been able to underwrite fewer than 5,000 loans.

But Sellstrom of the Lawyers Committee says the bankers’ analysis doesn’t address the question of the racial inequities. The fact that there’s been little marketing doesn’t mean that nobody is being told about the opportunities. It just means that it’s going on in less formal ways, and those informal channels are the ones that minority businesses are not privy to.”

“The breakdown is that people of color are not present at the banks,” added Anthony Robinson of MBELDEF.” And the government that’s pushing these benefits through are not sensitive to the fact that we are not involved in this distribution network.

“So to solve this problem we need to incorporate people of color into the distribution chain of banks, business, and government. Otherwise, the flaws of the system will only magnify the inequality that’s at the center of our recession.


H1N1 Flu Vaccine Open To Anyone In San Bernardino County

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By Chris Levister –

The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine is now available to anyone who wants it in San Bernardino County. San Bernardino County Health Officer, Maxwell Ohikhuare stated that the delivery of local vaccine supplies has increased enough to remove the restriction to priority groups. “The H1N1 virus has been widespread in the county, the state of California and throughout the country, so I urge people to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”

People can walk in at the SB County Public Health Clinic to get the vaccine without an appointment:

351 North Mt. Vernon Avenue, Room 102 Appointments are required at the Barstow, Ontario, Redlands and Hesperia Public Health Clinics to receive the H1N1 vaccine.

To make an appointment, call 1 (800) 722 - 4777.

Many School Districts in the County are also providing the vaccine to their local communities.

For schedules, contact the local School District Office, or go to the Superintendent of Schools website at http://www.sbcss.k12.ca.us/.

The H1N1 flu vaccine will not be provided at the following Public Health Clinics:

Big Bear, Fontana, Joshua Tree, San Bernardino (799 Rialto Avenue)


African-American Publishers ask Bailed-out Companies for Reciprocity

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NNPA Targets General Motors and others for Lack of Spending in Black Community

African Americans represent a buying power of $913 billion annually, 62 percent of total consumer buying power. However, the very corporations and institutions they support do not believe in reciprocity. Danny Bakewell, newly-elected chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) which represents 200 black community newspapers, today announced that his organization would be addressing the disparities between the revenue large corporations generate from black consumers, compared to the advertising invested in black-owned media. NNPA is particularly interested in corporations such as General Motors (GM), who received $50 billion dollars in federal bailout money this year.

The 10 Congressional Black Caucus Members of Congress who sit on the House Financial Services Committee are, from left, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (Mo.), Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.), Rep. Mel Watt (N.C.), Rep. Al Green (Texas), Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.), Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rep. David Scott (Ga.), Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), and Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr. (Mo.).In October, the National Alliance of Market Developers and Target Market News produced a study for the NNPA that showed African-American consumers will spend $2.8 billion on new GM cars in this year alone, representing nearly twenty-five percent of GM’s market shares. GM is one of the top five advertisers in the world yet the corporation spent only $29.9 million on advertising in Black media in 2008. This figure represents a meager 2.4 percent of GM’s $3 billion advertising and marketing budget.

This is just one example of government bailed-out institutions taking advantage of black tax payers. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are two others.

“This is not only unjust; this is tantamount to a crime. Companies are happily taking money out of the black community but not investing back,” says Bakewell. “African-American media companies are small businesses and declining advertising revenue has forced many to lay off employees and, in some cases, close their doors. And we know how desperate our community is for jobs.”

The Congressional Black Caucus Financial Services Committee Members have also released a statement (Dec. 2) acknowledging the extreme economic crisis in the African–American community, and in particular the decline of minority-owned small businesses. In the past decade there has been a 40 percent reduction in the number of African-American-owned media outlets. Civil Rights leaders including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, have pledged to work with NNPA to apply pressure on those institutions.

“Now that the government has stepped in, the Obama administration must enforce the laws of equal opportunity, contract compliance and fairness. These are government-run companies. And this is an imperative,” said Rev. Jackson. “These institutions simply cannot continue to take African Americans and this country’s small businesses for granted.”

“I am making this my top issue as chairman of NNPA,” said Bakewell. “We need real change and fast action now. Even if we have to take our 200-plus publishers to the board meetings of every corporation who is guilty, we will. This is an unethical and immoral public issue.”


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BVN National News Wire