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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.

Suicide Bomber Dressed as Student Kills 48 at All-Boys Public School

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) — As Americans honored their veterans in a national day of parades and ceremony, Nigerians were grieving over a war with terrorists, who are now slaughtering children with suicide bombs.

Schools have become the frontlines of the war waged by Boko Haram against Nigerian security forces. As Boko Haram occupies more villages in the country’s north, they claim to be building an Islamist state, one in which boys’ education would be limited to Koranic schools and Islamic universities, and girls would stay home and get married.

Monday, in the town of Potiskum in Yobe State, students were lining up at the all-boys Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School. The attacker was disguised as a student in a school uniform.

The blast, set off when the youthful bomber was questioned by a teacher, killed 48 people, mostly young children, according to hospital and morgue officials. Two teachers were among the dead, and 79 were injured, some critically.

This bombing was only the latest in a series, however, of attacks on schoolboys and male college students that began in 2013. Newspaper accounts of a massacre in Yobe state told of students locked in their dormitories and burned alive, shot in their beds, blown up or having their throats cut.

“We were waiting for the principal to address us, around 7:30 a.m., when we heard a deafening sound and I was blown off my feet,” Musa Ibrahim Yahaya, 17, told the Associated Press from his hospital bed. “People started screaming and running. I saw blood all over my body.”

“The explosions flung students at the center of the blast in all directions,” said another student in a telephone interview. “It also sent many of us reeling on the ground. I found myself under the weight of another student who fell over me. I’m certain he was dead.”

“It was confusion all over,” he said. “Everybody was hysterical.”

After the bombing, Adamu Ibrahim said he and other students with minor injuries ran home.

“When my father, who was sitting outside the house, saw me, he was terrified,” Ibrahim said. “I didn’t realize my white school uniform was stained with human blood and bits of flesh. I’m all right, except for the pains in my ears from the thunderous blast. My ears hurt and a humming sound persists inside.”

He said the school was poorly secured, with no fence, making it an easy target.

Education levels in northern Nigeria are lower than in other parts of the country, and state governments have been forced to close schools in some areas because of frequent terrorist attacks. Only 28 percent of children in the northern state of Borno attend school, according to government statistics, and the literacy rate in the north is 32 percent, compared with the 68 percent national average.

Meanwhile, the U.S. came in for blistering criticism from Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S., who condemned Washington for refusing to sell his government “lethal” weapons to fight militant Islamists.

Nigeria needed support to deliver the “killer punch,” not “light jabs,” against the Boko Haram group, Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye told members of the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. laws ban the sale of lethal weapons to countries whose military are accused of gross human rights abuses, and Nigeria’s government soldiers have been accused by rights groups of carrying out many atrocities, including torturing and executing suspects.

Lynch Nomination will Test Obama's Relationship with New Congress

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In what may be the first test of the GOP-controlled, United States Senate’s willingness to work with the White House, President Barack Obama nominated United States Attorney Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as the next attorney general.

If confirmed, Lynch would become the first Black woman to serve as Attorney General.

During a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President Obama said that he couldn’t be prouder of Attorney General Eric Holder and that “our nation is safer and freer, and more Americans – regardless of race or religion, or gender or creed, or sexual orientation or disability -– receive fair and equal treatment under the law.”

Praising his new nominee, President Obama continued: “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta.  Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country.  She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights.”

Lynch earned degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Law School and served as a United States Attorney of New York under President Bill Clinton a position she returned to during the Obama Administration.

“She has boldly gone after public corruption, bringing charges against public officials in both parties,” said President Obama. “She’s helped secure billions in settlements from some of the world’s biggest banks accused of fraud, and jailed some of New York’s most violent and notorious mobsters and gang members.”

President Obama said that one of Lynch’s proudest achievements was the civil rights prosecution of the New York City police officers involved in the brutal assault of the Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

After police busted up a fight outside of a nightclub and arrested Louima, Justin Volpe, a White police officer, sodomized the Haitian immigrant with a broomstick in a New York City police precinct. Volpe pled guilty to a number of charges associated with the 1997 attack and is currently serving 30 years. The city awarded Louima nearly $9 million in a settlement. Lynch was credited for working behind the scenes and navigating the city’s prosecution of the racially charged case.

In 2013, Holder asked Lynch to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and recognized Lynch and her staff for being instrumental in implementing the Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime” initiative.

“Throughout her career, and especially during her tenure as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York – during both the Clinton and Obama Administrations – Loretta has earned the trust and respect of Justice Department employees at every level, in Washington and throughout the country,” said Holder.  “She is held in high regard by criminal justice, law enforcement, and civil rights leaders of all stripes. And from her time as a career attorney, prosecuting high-profile public corruption cases, to her leadership of sensitive financial fraud and national security investigations, she has proven her unwavering fidelity to the law – and her steadfast dedication to protecting the American people.”

Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a civil rights group that advocates for social, economic and political equality, applauded the nomination of Lynch to be the next Attorney General.

“She is an excellent and worthy choice to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder in his groundbreaking work for the American people,” said Sharpton. “Though we have not always agreed on cases, I have always seen her operate in the most fair, balanced, and just manner. Americans would be served greatly by her becoming our next Attorney General and the president should be given kudos for such a nomination.”

In a written statement on Lynch’s nomination, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups, said that Lynch would bring stability to Department of Justice.

“Lynch would bring a steady hand to guide the Department of Justice and would make history as the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General,” said Henderson. “Having already unanimously confirmed Lynch twice as U.S. Attorney, we urge the Senate to approach its third confirmation process with integrity and expedience in the lame duck session.”

But Republicans have already signaled that they don’t have any plans to take up the nomination until the new Congress in 2015, leaving some Washington watchers to speculate about what President Obama will have to give up to get Lynch confirmed by the majority-Republican Senate.

Earlier this year, the president made a deal with Senate Republicans to fill vacant seats on federal judicial benches in Middle District and Northern District of Georgia.

The deal involved nominating Leslie Abrams for the United States court of the Middle District of Georgia and Eleanor Ross to the United States Northern District of Georgia. Abrams and Ross would become the first Black women to serve lifetime appointments as federal judges in Georgia, but the Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t voted on either candidate.

The compromise also drew the ire of prominent Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights leaders, because of two other nominees: Michael Boggs and Mark Cohen.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) criticized Cohen, because he led the team defending the state’s laws requiring photo identification to vote. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke out against Boggs for voting against removing the Confederate battle emblem from Georgia’s state flag when he served as a state legislator.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also failed to bring President Obama’s nomination for U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy up for a vote, because it was reported that Reid wasn’t confident that he had enough votes to get him through.

Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association attacked Murthy over one of his 2012 tweets that said: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c/ they’re scared of the NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”

The problems that President Obama had getting qualified candidates confirmed to key positions with a Democratic-controlled Senate may foreshadow greater challenges now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Still, some lawmakers remain optimistic.

In a statement on Lynch’s nomination, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) said that President Obama showed that he is uncompromising and determined that our country’s top attorney be dedicated to doing what is right for the American people.

Fudge said, “I commend President Obama for this selection, and request the confirmation of Ms. Lynch without delay.”

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