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SCLC President Joins Forces with Gorbachev in Peace Effort

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By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart
Special to the NNPA


The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, leader in the transformational nonviolent Civil Rights Movement America in the 1960s, is poised for a major role in bringing international peace and equality with the recent signing of a historic proclamation with world leaders in Berlin.

Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Atlanta-based organization, presented the proclamation and secured support during a summit in Berlin November 8-9, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Steele, who was the only American participating in that summit, also met with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev who agreed to serve as the international chairman of the SCLC’s Global Roundtable on Peace, an initiative that expands the international work Dr. Martin Luther King launched before his death.

The international link with the SCLC and world leaders focused on solutions to global conflicts again shows how much the organization is still held in esteem around the world, said Steele. He arrived  for the summit just before thousands began commemorating the historic events at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate that changed the world.

“Just five hours before his assassination in Memphis in 1968, Dr. King told one of his lieutenants, [current SCLC board chairman] Dr. Bernard Lafayette, ‘Now is the time to internationalize and institutionalize the SCLC and the Civil Rights Movement all over the world. We must go international,’” Steele said. “The relationships the SCLC has established with world leaders, this proclamation and the Nonviolence Conflict Initiative are all a part of the dream of Dr. King.”

As chairman of the SCLC initiative, Gorbachev will serve as a major adviser, providing SCLC with more access to leading policy leaders who can help the organization fulfill its mission in eradicating poverty and achieving peaceful resolutions.

Dr. King, president and a founding member of the SCLC, had already made a significant impact on Berlin in a visit at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement in September 1964. His trip occurred 30 years after his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., known as “Daddy King,” travelled to Berlin with a delegation of Atlanta pastors to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Baptist congregations in Germany. It was also during the 1934 trip that the elder King decided to change his name and his son’s name from Michael to Martin after the 16th century German theologian Martin Luther, who initiated the Protestant Reformation.

The impact of Dr. King’s visit still resonates in Germany and many people there credit the iconic leader for being one of the heroes behind the scenes who helped bring an end to the Cold War and the wall coming down on November 9, 1989.

Twenty five years after the end of the Cold War, leaders gathered in Berlin confirmed by signing the SCLC’s proclamation that international conflicts can best be resolved through nonviolent peaceful solutions.  This is the same strategy that Dr. King employed during the turbulent 1960s.

The proclamation also calls leaders to work toward help for the poor and suffering, social justice and equity, stewardship of the planet, defense of global human rights, and economic equality and education.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Mikhail Gorbachev are two of my greatest heroes,” Steele said. “I told him the SCLC is interested in addressing poverty and human rights around the world, and he is interested in collaborating with us – the organization co-founded by Dr. King.”

About 25 leaders – former ambassadors, foreign ministers, renowned policy advisers –  assembled for the summit at Allianz Forum, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, signed the proclamation, because they believe in the dream of peace championed by Dr. King and they respect the words of the Soviet Union’s last president.

“Mr. Gorbachev said: There should never be another crisis on the global community stage that we have to use war and violence in order to solve our problems. The only way to solve our problems is through peace and nonviolence.”

Prior to signing the proclamation, Gorbachev thanked the summit participants, including Steele and leaders from throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and North America and said: “The discussion we have had today shows that there are many ideas. The urgency we see here requires immediate attention.”

Martin Lees, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and secretary-general of the Club of Rome, called the summit significant and indicated it could be the start of major changes in the way Europe and the world addresses issues.

“You have people here from all over the world drawing on their expertise and wisdom. They are looking at today’s world and basically saying we are in trouble. We have to mobilize our forces and get together to build a better world,” Lees said in an interview following the close of the summit on November 9.

“Everyone has been saying that Europe has been looking inside for several decades. Now the world problems are so acute. I hope the leaders will wake up and see the scale of the problems and start acting to do something about it,” said Lees, who chaired one of the summit sessions.

He said President Gorbachev would soon meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to continue the discussion.

Anastasia Poliakova, the North America Coordinator for The Gorbachev Foundation, said President Gorbachev has devoted much of his career to bringing peace and eradicating poverty, so the association with the SCLC is a good match.

“Poverty is one of the biggest challenges we face right now. Social issues are still very, relevant all over the world,” she said. “Mr. Gorbachev is committed to using his name and his influence to inspire, inform and educate the global community in support of Dr. King’s ideas and support of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Steele in moving forward – connecting people together who are of the same mind.”

St. Louis Commits to Police Diversity

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By Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American


St. Louis legislators will put $50,000 behind a police training program that black police officers created this year to recruit more African Americans into the police academy, said Mayor Francis Slay at a press conference on November 4.

The Ethical Society of Police – a long-standing organization for black officers – will lead the 10-week mentoring program that aims to identify and prepare potential minority recruits for careers in law enforcement and other public safety professions.

“The ethical society is glad to be spearheading this initiative,” said Srgt. Darren Wilson, an African-American 18-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and president of the Ethical Society of Police.

In January, Wilson and other society members started mentoring potential candidates through an informal pilot program.

“We ran this for several months,” Wilson said. “We started with 10 and were only able to endorse two – to let you know the dynamics of the program and what we’re looking for as far as the caliber of the applicants we feel comfortable endorsing.”

Slay said his office is entering into an agreement with the Ethical Society of Police to help launch the program full force. The initiative will pay African-American officers to work, while off duty, to identify potential quality recruits and prepare them to go through the academy. The money for the program will come out of the Prop S fund, and aldermen will introduce a bill to allocate those funds soon, Slay said.

The 10-week course will include writing and interviewing skills, fitness, professional etiquette and community-oriented policing strategies.

Slay said, “We’ve seen the mistrust that can exist” when police officers do not reflect the people in the neighborhoods that they patrol.

In July, the Ethical Society released a statement criticizing the demographics of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department – saying that for the last 30 years, African-American officers have only made up 30 percent of the force.

Under Police Chief Sam Dotson and Slay’s leadership, the society said, “The department’s level of diversity has remained stagnant in regards to recruitment, promotion and representation: Police academy classes continue with five or six minority recruits in classes of 20 or more officers.”

Dotson said in the last two police academy classes, 50 percent of the cadets have been African Americans. And he will make sure future classes reflect those numbers as well.

“I will not do a police academy class that is not 50 percent African-American,” Dotson said. “I believe that that is reflective of the community. If that means I have to wait a couple of weeks to get qualified applicants on either side, I will. But I also have to make sure that it is reflective of the community.”

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said the program should be replicated throughout the region. He said the common excuse offered by police leaders – that they cannot find qualified black applicants – would no longer be tenable.

Race and Opportunity in Detroit: Black, Neighborhood Businesses Lose

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By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen


There is a racial imbalance to opportunity and outcome in Detroit’s revitalization a recent report by a Wayne State University graduate demonstrates. “Detroit: Black Problems, White Solutions” reveals what many already believe: The beneficiaries of Detroit’s revitalization are mostly white — the minority, in a city where the majority population is 83 percent African American.

Most funding from foundations and philanthropic efforts, dedicated to encouraging art, entrepreneurial and other endeavors in Detroit, aren’t going to African Americans.

According to Ken Harris, president of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, investment in Detroit lacks economic inclusion and the participation of minority-owned businesses. Harris says there needs to be an assessment and more data on the philanthropic commitment to Detroit’s neighborhoods.

“There are opportunities that exist in the neighborhoods that don’t exist downtown. The urban corridor has been neglected,” Harris told the Michigan Citizen. “There’s development downtown but without true sustainability — neighborhoods keep the city afloat.”

According to the MBCC, there are 32,000 commercial businesses in Detroit and most have between one to five employees. About 10 percent of those are chamber members.

“We can help invest in those businesses or provide resources to help them hire and grow,” says Harris. “If they can hire up to three or more people, you (would) have 100,000 people working in more jobs.”

Harris says the same approach used to find and recruit businesses to come downtown can be used in the neighborhoods. In fact, he says, there are economically viable areas such as the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois.

“Money should be knocking down their doors because they’re already established. Neighborhoods like Greenacres/Palmer Woods — where the Avenue of Fashion is located — the University District, Boston Edison, Rosedale Park, Indian Village and West Village, are all sustainable areas that have been ignored,” says Harris. “Until (philanthropy) connects with those who have businesses in the neighborhoods and the people with boots on the ground making it happen, we won’t truly be able to implement and execute economic policy that makes an impact.”

This month, NEI or the New Economy Initiative announced winners for its NEIdeas competition. The purpose of the award was to help neighborhood businesses. NEI gave 30 businesses with annual sales of less than $1 million a year, grants of $10,000 for business improvement.

Winners included House of Morrison, on the Avenue of Fashion, a shoe and leather repair business and GLEEOR, Inc., a landscaping and snow removal business. Both are African American family-owned, multigenerational businesses.

According to a demographic breakdown of recipients, 73 percent were minority and 60 percent woman-owned.

Dave Egner, NEI’s executive director, however, told the Detroit Free Press: “It’s all part of changing the culture now, particularly bridging the neighborhood-versus-downtown divide when we talk about the two Detroits.”

Harris says the investment in Detroit’s Black businesses and neighborhood businesses must be meaningful. “There’s a difference between job creation investment and curbside appeal or facade changes — grants for equipment and upgrades. We need substantial investment in our businesses that will help us create jobs,” he said. “I can get a grant for $10,000, but is that going to help me create jobs? What’s the difference between that and 1.2 million to a business downtown?”

Wayne StateUniversity Law Professor Peter Hammer says there has to be a new theory of economic development at play in Detroit — one that puts people at the center.

“The current approach is to put property at the center — a new casino, a new stadium,” said Hammer. “That didn’t stop the crisis but led to the crisis.”

Hammer has been critical of the city’s bankruptcy and the Plan of Adjustment to bring the city out of bankruptcy. He says just looking at the numbers — the bottom line — will not solve Detroit’s problems.

“(We have to look at) how do we build human capital, which takes you to the education system, creating entrepreneurial opportunities and job training,” Hammer told the Michigan Citizen.

Regarding Detroit’s “comeback,” Harris says hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to consultants but not to the organizations and people in the neighborhoods, “who are making things happen.”

Foundations and investment firms, he says need to reach out to these organizations. MBCC has been approached by some entities — but only for data scanning and surveying, for outside firms to get a landscape (of Detroit businesses), according to Harris.

“We have not been approached by anyone in the philanthropic or investment community to target African American businesses in the city of Detroit,” Harris said. “When you have outside groups coming in and not doing the day-to-day work, they approach the organizations doing the work but not working with or funding (them) to enhance the community.”

He added, “We do need to have a true economic assessment — a disparity study, so that we can truly monitor and find out where we are. When you have the data you’re able to help move the pendulum forward. It needs to be more than a social argument or justice argument but a data driven argument.”

Harris says the MBCC’s focus now is proactive economic policy.

Going forward, investment in commercial businesses and community organizations is necessary, says Harris. He and Hammer are proponents of community benefits agreements.

CBAs have been successful in other large cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Those programs have included job training and local hiring mandates, affordable housing, living wage and adherence to green environmental practices, among other community benefits.

“The mayor’s response to CBAs is throwback to the old ways of doing things,” Hammer says “(CBAs) connect new business opportunity to people already living here. (Developers should be asked) ‘How does your business benefit our community?’ and if they can’t answer maybe we don’t need them.”

Although Mayor Mike Duggan has not publicly stated his position on City Council’s CBA ordinance — called Urban Development Agreement ordinance — his administration informed media he agrees with the head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation that it can entail unnecessary red tape.

Duggan spokesperson John Roach told the Metrotimes newspaper last month, “The Mayor hasn’t said much right now on the CBA because he is in ongoing discussions with City Council on the matter, however, he does agree with the concerns Rod Miller expressed in his letter to Council.”

Hammer says CBAs can be used as a screening device to prevent the exploitation of property.

NEI, Mission Throttle and Invest Detroit did not respond to several phone calls about their projects.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series that looks at the racial imbalance and inequity in the foundation funding to Detroit residents.

New York City Council Bill to Make Chokehold Illegal

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By Khorri Atkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News


Queens Democratic City Councilman Rory Lancman plans to introduce a package of bills on Thursday, that aims to criminalize the use of chokeholds by NYPD officers and provide guidelines on how the tactic can only be used.

In an interview with the AmNews on Tuesday, the freshman lawmaker said one measure will ban chokehold altogether. Although the take-down maneuver is prohibited by NYPD departmental policy, officers still use it. There’s no law that makes it illegal.

“The bill would make it clear that chokehold will only be used depending on the situation the officers are in,” the lawmaker said.

Under another bill, city District Attorneys will prosecute cases of negligence assaults for inappropriate use of force. He said the prosecution will prove whether an officer is justified in using the force to subdue someone.

The other measure requires the police department to produce annual reports about the incidents when officers use force. Lancman said this will create transparency and allow the council to track how force is being used by officers.

The lawmaker told the AmNews that the move to make chokeholds illegal, stems from the July 17 chokehold death of Staten Island man Eric Garner. He was placed in the prohibited police tactic by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. Relatives, activists and some council members argued that the use of force was unnecessary.

Garner, 43, was approached for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island. After being placed in a chokehold and taken to the ground, Garner could be heard repeatedly saying to the officers, “I can’t breathe.” Weeks later, the city medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide as a result of the chokehold. They said his health conditions, obesity and high blood pressure were also contributing factors to his death.

A Staten Island grand jury began hearing evidence to determine if there will be criminal charges. Pantaleo and the other officers were not arrested and charged. Last month, Garner’s family filed a $75 million lawsuit against the city.

The possibility of getting the bills passed and approved depends in large part with the support of the Police Commissioner William Bratton. At a City Council oversight hearing in September, Bratton made it clear that he would not support a law that calls to ban chokeholds, when asked by Lancman.

“I won’t support It,”said Bratton at the time. “I feel that department policies are sufficient, that if lawmakers want to try to make that against the law, well, good luck, but I will not support it.”

The comissioner said there are more than sufficient protocols in place to address a problem.

Lancman said he hopes the council and the mayor will support his bills.

“He promised reforms that will make everyone safe,” he said. “There’s no one who can look with a straight face and said that chokehold is not an issue in New York City.”

The AmNews contacted the police union president, Patrick Lynch, but didn’t get comment by press time.

Expulsion of African National Congress Union Partner Creates Uproar

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN)—The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, or Numsa, a major partner of the African National Congress with more than 350,000 members, was expelled in a late-night session of members of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions, also known as Cosatu, the labor federation of the ANC.

The unprecedented expulsion was approved by a select federation committee. Numsa, a militant activist union, was tossed out for disloyalty to the ANC, for poaching members of other unions and for proposing the organization of a united front of left-leaning organizations.

The vote was 33 for expulsion and 24 against.

“Welcome to the ANC’s biggest nightmare,” The Daily Maverick newspaper wrote in a banner headline, adding, “Consider it ‘Game On.’”

Numsa President Andrew Chirwa said the expulsion would be the beginning of a “real class struggle,” rather than the end of the road for the union and seven other Cosatu affiliates that are supporting them.

According to its critics, Cosatu in recent years had become cozy with political leaders and unwilling to defend union members, whose wages hardly budged while a small middle class and some notable millionaires and billionaires (including the expected successor to President Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa) saw fabulous gains.

Income inequality in South Africa—the gap between the haves and the have-nots—is one of the widest in the world.

After the group’s ouster, Numsa leader Irving Jim declared, “We have reviewed the so-called charges against us, as far as we know what they are, and we have shown that at the bottom of them all is one thing: You, the Cosatu leadership, remain loyal to the ANC and South African Communist Party alliance … In fact, you are more loyal to this class alliance than you are to your working-class brothers and sisters.

“We want to make one thing clear: Inside or outside Cosatu, we will not stop mobilizing the working class on the road to socialism. We will not give you any peace as we expose the miserable failure of the class alliance you are entangled in and how it compromises your ability to lead the working class.”

And as a parting shot at his former union brothers, Jim said, “What we must give them credit for is that they managed to achieve what the apartheid regime failed to do, which was to destroy a federation that had been both a shield and spear in the hands of workers and in the consciousness of the nation.”

Numsa will be taking its battle to a ground-level offensive, the leaders said, convening mass meetings and shop steward council meetings as part of a consultation process on the way forward.

Cosatu opponents of Numsa are demanding an apology and a retraction of the metal workers’ resolutions, including a pledge to withdraw electoral support for the ANC and plans to form a united front of left-leaning organizations.

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