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Jesse Jackson Takes Banks, Obama To Task On Foreclosures

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By Chris Levister –

The Rev. Jesse Jackson brought his signature charismatic activism to Loveland Church in Ontario and Victorville Sunday calling on banks to halt foreclosures during the holidays while criticizing President Barack Obama for bailing out banks and sending more troops to war at a time when the foreclosure crisis is putting more Americans on the street.

“Why should banks subsidized by the government and protected by insurance paid for by homeowners put people out of their homes at Christmas?” he said.

In a stirring speech punctuated by frequent applause, Jackson told congregants at the Sunday morning service in Ontario, “We are bailing out Herod and not the baby in the manger.”

Jackson, a long-time civil rights activist, founder of the Chicago-based Rainbow/P.U.S.H. Coalition, asked how many people in the audience could name someone looking for work. Nearly half of the 200 people stood up.

“How many of you know somebody facing foreclosure,” he asked. A third of the audience rose to their feet.

Churchgoer Lily Ealy and others quickly sat down when Jackson asked people in favor of escalating the war in Afghanistan to stand. Ealy who lost her home in January shouted “Amen – it’s not our war.”

Last week the President announced plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida and Taliban forces.

Jackson said while the California foreclosure tide may be turning, the fundamental forces driving foreclosure activity in this housing downturn, “high-risk mortgages, negative equity, and unemployment continue to loom over any nascent recovery.”

Jackson also visited Loveland Church in Victorville, where many foreclosed homes were being put up for auction. His trip was one of the many stops he has made to neighborhoods nationwide including San Francisco, Oakland and Modesto where the housing boom has given way to exploding ARMs, mortgage defaults and eviction notices.

He elicited loud applause when he accused banks of fattening themselves and their executives’ wallets by steering millions of Black and Latino homebuyers into high interest loans they could not afford.

“There is a national crisis as it relates to the number of foreclosures across this country and California is at the forefront largely due to lenders who take advantage of those who are already struggling,” said Rev. Jackson.

“We want to put power back into the hands of the every day citizen who is simply trying to hold on to his or her part of the American Dream.”

Attending the Jackson event, State Senate majority leader Dean Florez (D-Fresno) applauded Jackson’s call for lenders to conduct good faith negotiations with families who face foreclosure of their homes. He says he expects new legislation aimed at helping homeowners to be introduced in January.

Nevada, California and Florida posted the highest foreclosure rates out of all the states.

California had the second-highest rate, after Nevada, with one in every 156 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in October.

A total of 85,420 California properties received a foreclosure filing during the month, a decrease of 1% from the previous month but still nearly 50% above the total reported in October 2008, according to the report.

California’s default notices and scheduled foreclosure auctions were up 120% and 73% respectively from October 2008, when California foreclosure activity was in the midst of a three-month lull after a state law required lenders to give troubled homeowners extra notification before beginning foreclosure.

Under increasing pressure from members of his own party President Obama this week turned his attention to the high level of joblessness, but offered no promises.

He said he wanted to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance. He proposed an additional $250 apiece in stimulus spending for seniors and veterans and aid to state and local governments to discourage them from laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters.

200 Years Of Faith In San Bernardino

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California State University, San Bernardino’s 23rd Annual Morrow-McCombs Memorial Lecture will focus on the City of San Bernardino’s Bicentennial.

Rabbi Hillel Cohn, chairman of the city’s Bicentennial Committee, and a religious leader in San Bernardino for the past 47 years, will deliver the lecture “Can’t We All Get Along? Reflections on 200 years of Religious Life in San Bernardino” at 7:30 p.m. March 17 at the university.

Ray McCombs, a former mayor of Rialto and a life-long student of religion, established the lecture series in 1988 to further relations between Christians and Jews. Lillian Morrow was deeply impressed with McComb’s commitment to better relationships between Christians and Jews and also created an endownment to support the series. After Sept. 11, 2001 the Morrow-McCombs Lecture Series was expanded to include Islam. Over the years some of the most prominent religious thinkers in the country have delivered the lecture including Martin Marty, Rosemary Reuther, Ellis Rivkin and David Saperstein.

The 2010 lecture will focus on successes, failures and challenges in interfaith cooperation in San Bernardino. Dr.  Albert Karnig, president of CSUSB, will serve as the moderator.

Rabbi Cohn has served twice as president of the San Bernardino Clergy Association, was one of the founders of Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) and for the past 20 years has been a member of the Priest-Rabbi Dialogue, a project of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. For many years he was a regular participant on “Religion On the Line”, a radio talk show on KABC radio in Los Angeles.

For more information on this lecture, call Rabbi Cohn at (909) 888-3666. Rabbi Cohn is the chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration Committee, and Erin Brinker is the chair of its Public Relations & Marketing and Independence Day Extravaganza committees.

Other Bicentennial Celebration Committee members are Art Guerrero (chair of Neighborhood Beautification committee) Jim Smith (chair of the Community Engagement committee), Cheryl Brown (chair of the Youth Council, Intergovernmental and Arts committees), Beverly Bird (chair of the Legend of the Arrowhead committee), Steven Shaw (chair of the History committee), David Smith (chair of the Finance committee), Jane Sneddon (chair of the Parade committee) and Martha Pinkney (chair of the Gala committee.) These members were appointed by the mayor and members of the San Bernardino Common Council.

Additional community volunteers who have taken on leadership of other committees are: Trudy Freidel (Festival of Faiths), Dr. William Coleman (Leadership Cabinet), Peggi Hazlett (Mayor’s Run), Dr. Charles “Skip” Herbert (Coloring Books for Schools) and The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire (Design).

Dolls Like Me: Retailers see ‘holiday green’ in multicultural toys

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By Chris Levister –

Mylisa Knowles and her sister Kendra were disturbed by their 3, 6 and 9 year-old daughters playing with toys that didn’t reflect the diversity of the neighborhood around them – so much so that on Christmas 2 years ago they launched a doll drive and toy educational campaign to help parents looking for multicultural, ethnic or anti-racist dolls and toys. The campaign hit a raw nerve.

“There’s still a lot of disgust and frustration out there. We found that parents of children of color regularly scan shelves looking for culturally and ethnically sensitive toys often coming away insulted and empty handed,” says Mylisa.

To date the Knowles have collected thousands of new and used culturally sensitive toys including ethnic dolls, puppets, puzzles, multicultural Crayola crayons and books like author bell hooks “Happy to Be Nappy”, a positive message about brown girls with kinky-curly hair of all lengths.

“The reason little girls love dolls so much is that they are miniatures of themselves. Dolls are one of the first toys of identity and self expression,” said Kendra. “Children want their dolls to reflect who they are.”

The Knowles are gearing up to distribute the toys to low-income Inland Empire children like 6-year-old Natasha Williams who wrote a letter to The North Pole asking for the Princess Tiana doll. Anika Noni Rose Disney’s first-ever Black princess plays Tiana in the animated film “The Princess and the Frog”.

“At first I wanted “Belle” (the white heroine of “Beauty and the Beast”) but I changed my mind when I saw Princess Tiana. She’s pretty like Malia and Sasha Obama,” said Williams.

A 2008 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey found 86% of African-American parents, 73% of Hispanic parents and 52% of Asian parents felt, “it is important for children of color to have dolls that look like them.”

Bolstered by the success of Nickelodeon’s popular bilingual children’s character, Dora the Explorer, and the spending power of the nation’s growing minority population, toy retailers across the country are filling their shelves with dolls whose skin colors and facial features reflect the girls and boys who play with them.

Although Black and Hispanic dolls have been around for decades, doll designers and manufacturers are trying harder at authenticity, rather than simply tinting the hair and skin from “white” doll molds.

Discount retailer Kmart has been cashing in on a growing appetite for ethnic toys among minority consumers, and their rising spending power. In 2007 it launched its own initiative - dozens of multicultural dolls on shelves nationwide.

Although other retailers are stocking more multicultural dolls often in predominantly minority neighborhoods, Kmart claims it’s the first mass-market retailer to have such a wide selection available in every store.

Kmart stores sell nearly four dozen types of ethnic dolls a nearly fourfold increase from 2006. The dolls are flanked by an advertising campaign in the store’s circulars and designed to appeal to Black, Hispanic and Asian parents.

“We needed to be relevant to them,” said Philipp Elliott, a toy merchandise manager at Kmart, a subsidiary of Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp.

Becoming relevant to minority shoppers can reap big benefits. About one in three Americans is a minority, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2006 and 2011, the spending power of the country’s Blacks, Asians, Native Americans and multiracial shoppers is expected to grow 38 percent, to $1.9 trillion.

Meanwhile Hispanic buying power alone is projected to grow a formidable 48 percent, to almost $1.2 trillion, according to data from The University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.

By 2050, minorities will account for half of U.S. residents, according to Census Bureau projections.

Kmart officials declined to release figures showing how much the chain has invested in the doll project, which includes brands such as Baby Abuelita and Mattel Inc.’s Rebelde dolls, as well as the newly designed proprietary Just Girlz collection. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said the chain’s Hispanic doll selection has more than tripled since 2007 while the total assortment of Black baby dolls has more than doubled.

All told, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has more than 70 varieties of ethnic dolls, but it doesn’t carry the full selection in every store. Instead, it often stocks many of them in neighborhoods where there are more minority shoppers.

Wayne, N.J.-based Toys “R” Us Inc., which follows a similar approach when stocking its more than 100 types of multicultural dolls, said its Hispanic selection has soared in the past two years along with smaller increases in the more established Black doll products.

“If you’re a little girl of color, you’ve got choices” said Denise Gary Robinson, president of DollsLikeMe.com, an online specialty doll boutique that specializes in ethnic dolls, toys and gifts. “I see companies now really putting forth the effort. I see designers going back to the drawing board and saying the old colored-plastic routine isn’t working.”

 

CRL Research: Bank Payday Loans Lead to Long-term Indebtedness

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By Charlene Crowell –

(NNPA) As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau begins operations, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) is releasing new findings on the growth and effects of a new short-term and high-cost loan product. Big Bank Payday Loans, a new CRL research brief, details how mainstream banks have entered the triple-digit interest rate payday loan market with a product that on average virtually guarantees repayment within 10 days. Yet for consumers, these loans lead to 175 days of indebtedness for the average borrower – twice as long as the maximum length of time the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has advised.

With many banks allowing up to half of a customer’s monthly direct deposit income, or up to $750, an average 44 percent of a bank payday customer’s next deposit is used to repay bank payday loans. For older borrowers already living on fixed incomes, the average bank payday loan repayment from a Social Security check was 43 percent. Senior customers are also 2.6 times more likely to have used a bank payday loan than bank customers as a whole.

Even without bank payday loans, more than 13 million older adults are considered economically insecure, living on $21,800 per year or less. One-fifth of older households have annual incomes below $50,000 but report spending more than 40 percent of their income on debt payments.

Senior women whose lower lifetime earnings result in diminished pension benefits are at acute financial risk – as are African-American seniors with on average only one-sixth of the wealth of older whites.

Although state and federal laws protect Social Security benefits from garnishment by debt collectors or payday lending to military families, problems still persist. For example, if a bank acts as its own debt collector, or a military family takes out back-to-back loans, the door to long-term indebtedness for both borrowers still opens.

The irony to these lending abuses are occurring against a financial backdrop of nearly $6 trillion in lost American household wealth since 2006, an unemployment rate hovering north of nine percent, and nearly half of Americans currently lacking the financial capacity to cope with an unforeseen but costly emergency.

Add to those troubling statistics, a $10 fee for every $100 borrowed and automatic repayment to the banks with an opportunity to add more fees if accounts become overdrawn and people of all ages just become poorer with payday loans. Youthful vigor might enable younger borrowers to take a second or temporary job to end the payday debt trap. But as a country do we want our young people growing up to believe that 400 percent loan interest is the best that they can expect?

Or what’s an older person to do? Do we really want to become a country that allows lenders to tarnish what ought to be golden years for older Americans?

Now that a federal consumer watchdog agency – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is available to work with state officials to end financial abuse, a lot of work awaits. In the meantime, CRL is calling for federal regulators to:

Use immediate supervisory and enforcement authority to stop the banks it supervises from making payday loans; Impose a moratorium on payday loans offered by banks under its supervision while data collection on the impact of this product on consumers is further refined – particularly its impact on communities of color; and Limit high-cost, short-term single payment loans to 90 days’ indebtedness or six loans per year – whichever is less.

We’ll soon see if anyone is listening.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s communications manager for state policy and outreach. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Lottery Ticket Honors Black Woman Who Died of Breast Cancer

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By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

On July 11 Illinois made history when Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that created the first scratch off lottery ticket named after a person and in this case someone Black. Quinn said he signed Senate Bill 1279, which renamed the “Ticket for the Cure” lottery ticket to the “Carolyn Adams Ticket for the Cure,” because it provides funding for breast cancer research. “Access to quality healthcare is a basic right, and Illinoisans – particularly those who are fighting cancer – should not be denied coverage for participating in trials that might save their lives,” he said. “It is important that Illinois takes the lead in increasing women’s access to new science that can save lives.” Adams, who grew up in the Roseland community on the far South Side, was the superintendent of the Illinois Lottery from 2003 until her death at age 44 from breast cancer in 2007.

The bill also extends the legislation until December 31, 2016. Had the governor not signed the bill the ticket would have been discontinued at the end of the year. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, more than 8,700 Illinois women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and more than 1,700 died as a result. The bill was sponsored by state Sens. Mattie Hunter and Jacqueline Y. Collins, state Reps. Constance Howard and Mary Flowers. “It was important to get this legislation passed and signed because it honors a very positive African American woman,” explained Hunter.

“This woman was committed to fighting breast cancer even during her own personal bout with it.” Hunter admits that when she was working on the original legislation in 2005 with the assistance of Adams, she did not know Adams herself was battling breast cancer. “She would leave around noon for lunch but was really going to Northwestern Hospital for treatment,” recalls Hunter.

“And even though she would show up to work the next day a little weak, I never suspected she had cancer.”

Since its inception the Ticket for Cure has generated $8.5 million, according to Susan Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Lottery. The Illinois Lottery grossed $2.2 billion in sales in 2010, a slight increase from 2009 when it grossed $2.1 billion, according to state records. And, in 2009 it paid $1.2 billion in winnings and $1.27 billion last year. Much of the lottery revenue over the last two years came from sales generated in predominately Black communities on the South and West sides, based on a Crusader analysis of state records. The 60619 ZIP code, which include the Greater Grand Crossing and Chatham communities, grossed $27.7 million in 2009 and $28.7 million in 2010. And the 60628 ZIP codes, which include the Roseland and West Pullman communities, grossed $21.4 million in 2009 and $21.7 million in 2010. Other ZIP codes whose residents are predominately Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, were popular included 60639 ZIP code had total sales of $20.1 million in 2009 and $20.9 million in 2010; 60617 did $19.2 million in 2009 and $19. 5 million in 2010; 60651, did $19.7 million and $20.8 million; 60647 did $18.3 million and $19.5 million; 60634 did $17.7 million and $18.9 million; 60609 $16. 3 million and $16.5 million; and 60636 did $15.6 million and $16.3 million.

And more lottery vendors did not add up to more sales either. The 60619 ZIP code, which grossed the highest sales in the state, had 48 lottery vendors in 2009 and 46 in 2010. But the 60647 ZIP code had 61 vendors in 2009 and 64 in 2010 but grossed less in sales than other ZIP codes where there are fewer vendors, such as 60639, which has 51 and 60651, which has 38. The Illinois Lottery was founded in 1974 with the goal of raising additional money to fund public schools. State records show that in 2009 and 2010 the Illinois Lottery paid $625 million into the Common School Fund, which is a state fund used to help finance public schools.

Unlike other lottery tickets where a portion goes to the Common School Fund, 100 percent of the proceeds from the Carolyn Adams Ticket go to fund breast cancer research. Money from the ticket is distributed is then goes to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which provide grants to private and non-profit organizations to fund research on breast cancer and to provide other services for breast cancer victims.

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