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Healthcare Reform Important to Blacks

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By Brian D. Smedley
NNPA Guest Commentary

Health inequities are deep, persistent, and not new. From the cradle to the grave, racial and ethnic minorities suffer from shorter life spans, higher rates of disease and disability, and higher mortality relative to national averages.

These problems have plagued generations of African-Americans and other people of color in the United States. Yet these issues have historically received scant attention in Washington — until now.

Both Congress and the Obama Administration are ramping up efforts to improve health and health care for racial and ethnic minorities and others who face barriers to good health.

On Tuesday, June 9, the Congressional Tri-Caucus (composed of the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander Caucuses) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009, a sweeping bill that would address an array of issues ranging from the poor distribution of primary care services in communities of color to the lack of diversity among health professionals. And on the same day, the White House, led by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, convened an historic meeting of health equity activists, scholars, and health care providers to discuss strategies to reduce health inequities and improve the health of all racial and ethnic groups.

Why the focus on health inequality?  One, the new political landscape—driven by a president who clearly understands how and why racial inequality has been a difficult conversation in the United States—favors tackling these challenges in the context of major health care reform legislation being considered by Congress.

Second, persistent leadership from some members of Congress, such as CBC Health Braintrust Chair Congresswoman Donna Christensen, is beginning to pay off as more members of Congress recognize the importance of eliminating health inequality. Christensen, a physician representing the Virgin Islands, seeks to ensure that any health legislation emerging from Congress addresses the needs of communities of color.

Third, it is becoming clear that any serious effort to expand health insurance coverage, improve the quality of health care, and contain health care costs—Congress’ stated goals for health reform—must address health inequities.

This is because these problems are often exacerbated among racial and ethnic minorities: people of color not only are disproportionately uninsured and underinsured (despite the presence of full-time workers in the vast majority of their families), they are also more likely than whites to suffer from poor quality care and face high health care expenses.  People of color are therefore the “canaries in the coal mine” of health reform, offering a clear signal of how distressed U.S. health care systems are.

Finally, to the extent that some groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities, face a greater burden of illness and disability, the U.S. economy will suffer.

Given the tremendous economic challenges facing the nation, many in Congress and the Administration understand that we cannot afford to allow African-Americans and other people of color—currently one-third of the population—to suffer from the kind of poor health that contributes to their economic marginalization.  It’s essential to reap the benefit of the talents, skills, and capacity for hard work of all Americans. To fail to do so would continue to drag the U.S. economy down.

And given that one in every two people living in the United States will be a person of color by the year 2042, it’s clear that inaction to address health inequality is inexcusable.

What’s needed now is for Congress and the Administration to hear—loudly and clearly—that the American people want health reform to have a significant focus on the needs of communities of color.

Public policies, even much-needed ones, are rarely enacted into law without a significant push from the grassroots. The nation’s health—and economy—depend on it.

Brian D. Smedley, Ph.D.is vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Immigrant Treatment in Phoenix Reminiscent of Slavery

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By Rev. Al Sharpton
NNPA Columnist

Rev. Al Sharpton
We often hear the phrase, ‘this country was built on the backs of slaves’. Men and women who were stripped of all rights and liberties, and forcibly made to execute the hardest labor around, are undeniably responsible for the construction and subsequent power of the United States of America.

But what we as a collective nation often forget is the daily humiliation and abuse endured by our founding mothers and fathers. In addition to repeated beatings, killings and torture, there were public humiliations; slaves shackled and dragged through the streets, an overall dehumanization

of an entire race, and a climate of hate and fear mongering. Fast forward to present-day Phoenix, Arizona. For several years now, Maricopa County is proudly and willingly profiling, harassing and rounding up another ethnic population.  Under the tutelage of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, officers and overly zealous vigilantes are openly infiltrating Latino neighborhoods, stopping individuals for routine traffic violations (or for no reason at all), and then demanding proof of citizenship.  A local Sheriff has taken it upon himself to play the role of border patroller and enforcer, and tear apart the sanctity of his locale.

What’s more, is that these ‘inmates’ are placed in outdoor convict tents under atrocious conditions which include inadequate food and hygiene, as well as ‘chain gangs’.  Reminiscent of slaves being dragged to the auction block, Sheriff Arpaio has even brazenly paraded these men and women – shackled and in prison clothes – from the County Courthouse to these tent city jails.  These individuals have been forced to wear pink underwear and suffer in the tents where temperatures can rise well above 100 degrees.

Sheriff Arpaio openly boasts of his success in rounding up illegal immigrants, but what he fails to acknowledge is the continual harassment of anyone who appears Latino, irrelevant to his or her immigration status.

His office proudly states that it has thousands in these tent facilities and that it has diminished costs to fewer than 15 cents per meal per inmate. It is in fact this falsity of reducing prison costs that has won Sheriff Arpaio much acclaim, but the reality is that he and his county have suffered million dollar loses after civil suits filed by family members of inmates who died under the horrid conditions of the tent city.  Charges of beatings, killings and an overall insecure climate of these facilities have resulted in an urgent demand of justice.

Open beleaguering of an entire group of people goes beyond the pale of law enforcement. And what is equally troubling and dangerous is the creation of an environment of abhorrence and animosity.

With talk of ‘taking your jobs’, Sheriff Arpaio and his self-proclaimed ‘posse of 3,000 volunteers’ have transformed a police department into an immigration enforcement agency that demeans anyone who may appear Latino. These fear-inducing words are used to incite and divide, and we as African Americans cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of Black vs. Brown.

We cannot condone the outright discriminatory practices of Sheriff Arpaio and his minion of followers who publicly humiliate and demonize others. The subliminal messaging of such actions can have grave detrimental effects beyond overt abuse that may one day play out in a life or death situation.

We cannot and do not stand with those who paint all Brown folks with the broad stroke of ‘otherness’.  For Latinos today are bearing the brunt of hard labor, and helping to build much of the foundation for our future as a country just as we did scores ago. I whole-heartedly support the Justice Department’s investigation of Sheriff Arpaio and his misguided practices.

Promises ... In Shades of Black

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Briana Boykin
By Briana Boykin

While she may not exactly be the rose that grew from concrete, she has emerged from the most adverse situations and is blossoming into quite a beautiful promise.

Tina Mims, graduate of Riverside’s California Baptist University, emanates a youthful and radiant shade in the promise quilt.  Not only has she overcome severe economic and social hardships, but she has also overcome a learning disorder and several health challenges that have made failed attempts to threaten her high academic success on several occasions.

Nevertheless, Mims has always been one to accept life’s tests with grace by riding on the wings of faith.

Following the call of the Divine One and the ancestors, Mims is blooming into a civil rights leader in the making.

Born into a family of hardworking janitors from Chicago who worked diligently to make ends meet, Mims, the youngest child of five, became the first in her family to graduate from college. But perhaps what is more amazing is that she did so defying a disorder known as Visual Perceptual Disorder, a form of dyslexia where the eyes simultaneously move in opposite directions.

She conquered all of this while rising to the top of her class and graduating with at 3.6 G.P.A.

Though Mims’s unprecedented determination is rather astonishing, her loveliest attributes include her honesty, compassion, and heart for the community.

On a number of occasions, she states “I aspire to have a national impact on human rights and other legislation through the political process and hope someday to represent Riverside and nearby communities in the United States Congress.” This aspiration is already being met through her daily accomplishments.

Recently, Mims worked with a handpicked group of leaders as an Obama Organizing Fellow, where she received the chance to shake hands with the current United States President. Out of that experience, she was selected as the Deputy Field Director for Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV).

Of her most recent accomplishments, Mims has been selected into the prestigious William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is the recipient of several academic scholarships.  She is currently residing in her Palm Springs home with her parents, awaiting the challenges, life lessons, and rewards that law school will bring to her in the fall.  She is projected to graduate from Law School in 2012 with a Juris Doctor Degree.

Admonishing those who are walking similar paths to “keep going and to rely on the grace of God to see you through each day – step by step,” Mims remains humbled by her circumstances. “There were so many times I could have given up, but I’m beginning to realize that God must want me here for a specific purpose,” she reveals, amazed by her own statement.

Indeed, He does; indeed, Mims is a promise blossoming.

Each shade of the promise quilt is so very different, but so much a part of us all. We are all intertwined, connected. And as the ancestors and the elders say: I don’t want none of yours … but I want all of mine!”

Mims, who is as much of ours as we are hers, is one who will make us proud.

Blessings to you all. See you next week … with more of the promises that belong to us!


The Streets: Fattening Frogs for Snakes -- 6 of 6 parts

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Richard O. Jones
Reverend Jesse Jackson is a much sought after speaker because he has something worthy to say.  Have you ever been in a school auditorium when Reverend Jackson spoke to the youth? Reverend Jackson have the audience repeat the phrase, I am, somebody, he instills, I am somebody, into their subconscious. Then he goes on to say, “I may not have a fine home, but, I am, somebody! My mother may not buy me everything I desire, but… I am, somebody!”

Then at other times he would chant, “Down with dope…Up with hope!” That’s the kind of fire every concerned mature adult must instill into the mind of our youth who claim the ‘Streets’ as their fraternity.

Being rebellious is a part of growing up. I realize that a lot of our youth consider themselves bucking the status quo by claiming to be from the streets. Most of them don’t truly mean any harm.

However, if would profit them to know the truth. Being rebellious or being anti-establishment is not

effectively shown by criminal behavior. The establishment expects as much from a ‘Street’ person.  The criminal justice system has brand new prison cells, high-powered rifles, plus police dogs already in place. The proper and wise display of Black youth militancy is to get an education.

Unfortunately gangs don’t recruit college graduates and highly intelligent people. Because they know it could be a waste of time. Street recruiters must seek the dropouts.

An independent businessman with hundred of employees is more powerful than operating a crack house. Being a married man who provides for his children is more threatening to an enemy than  being a player with a lot of children eating off food stamps. A political figure is more powerful than a gang member with an automatic weapon is. Sitting in a school classroom not learning anything is exactly what a racist loves to see in Black youth. They’re glad to know Black youth are selling dope and are envied by many other Black youths. Such a youth is no threat to the continued downward spiral of Black people. Quite to the contrary, such a youth is driving the bus of mass genocide.

It doesn’t take a government program or grant from a charitable source to put our heads together and develop a plan to help our children.

Too many are on their way to hell in a hand basket. Regardless of what business skills or creative talents

you have, you can share your expertise with a youth. It might open up a new career direction for them. If you have a van or mini bus you can transport youth on field trips to interesting places.

Everybody with the heart for humanity has something to offer.

Let’s united in fundraisers to educate our youth. Joe Louis once said regarding money, “I don’t love money, it just calm my nerves.” So out of respect for the late great Joe Louis, let’s raise enough funds to calm our nerves.

For youth to claim be from the streets is not a legacy worth clinging to. It is an affiliation to a dead end. However, such a boast is common among youth in search of a deeper meaning to their life. If you ever encounter such a young man or woman take a moment and share to love of God with them. If they are receptive, invite them to your church and begin to show the love that God commanded of us. If you’re not a member of a church, I extend an invitation to visit mine.

Eyes & Ears of Moreno Valley

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Juanita Barnes
“DREAMING FOR YOUR KIDS” by Ron Luce: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see v isions. (Joel 2:28), we hear Joel 2:28 in church and think about how revival needs to come to the younger generation. But instead of concentrating on that part of Joel 2:28, I want to draw your attention to the ‘old men will dream dreams’ phrase.  I used to overlook that part of the verse most of the time, thinking. ‘I’m not going to talk or think much about the old men dreaming dreams.’ But it is the older people in our society who dream dreams for the younger generations; and so it must be the parents who dream dreams for their children. There is one thing we can all agree on: Our children are not the ones who invented these things.”

“Where Dreams Soar”

Moreno Valley, I trust that everyone celebrated a very blessed Father’s Day.  It is great to celebrate the person that has been in your life to watch over you.

Moreno Valley Parks and Community Services Valley Kids Camp 2009 is up and running. It seems that things are moving forward with less. Discounts have been put in place to help in signing up more than one child. For more information call (951) 413–3280.

Coming to Moreno Valley is “THE LORD’S GYM.” The Lord has chosen our city for the betterment of our youth. But we must ‘help’ with whatever we can do to bring it to pass. The question I ask of you is: “WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT OUR At-Risk YOUTH?” The Lord’s Gym is needed here to reach the youth, let us “Partnership” with Renewed Life Fellowship, Inc. , A public charity 170(b) 1(A) (1) Employee ID #20-8215639- 501 © (3) tax exempt organization. For more information email renewedlifefellowship@.org or call (760) 900–6432.

If you like the theatre, the Koinonia Ministry of Cathedral Of Praise International Ministries is hosting a family fun afternoon to see the musical play “Church Basement Ladies,” at The Grove Theatre in Upland, CA. 276 E.  9th Street on July 18, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 per person.  The play is very funny and it is just a few miles off the 10 freeway. It is worth your time and so much fun. For more information call (909)874–8676 or www.grovetheatre.com.

This is about “AN APRON” if you were around your grandmother as I was, the principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few. It was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.  After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.  When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, and waved her apron and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields for dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that old-time apron that served so many purposes. REMEMBER:

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.  Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw. They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don’t think I ever caught anything from a apron… but Love!! See you next time HA, HA, HA.


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