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African-Americans Less Likely to Wear Seat Belts

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans hit the highways to get to their weekend vacation destinations. However, the lack of a simple task is killing Blacks on the roads at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the No. 1 leading cause of unintentional injury death for all African-Americans is motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for African-Americans ages 1 to 14. Of those killed while passengers in a vehicle, 52 percent of Black children were not restrained at the time of the crash.

Though wearing a seat belt is the best way to avoid injury, Blacks are still failing to buckle up. The problems have become so severe that it has been declared a public health.

For the last two years, Synergy Enterprises and USDOT have teamed up to bring awareness to the issue and get more Blacks to buckle up and save lives. Project director Karen Braxton and corporate monitor Roy Walker say there are several reason why Blacks aren't buckling up.

"From what we've heard, there are people who don't think it's cool to wear seat belts," Braxton said. "They're also not comfortable for people who have weight issues and deal with obesity."

Braxton added that many parents are often confused about when to stop using car seats for small children. Parents also don't use car seats at all or just don't buckle up if they are just going a short distance. Walker said that fashionable styles of driving are also a factor.

"Some people think it's macho when they are leaning while driving a car. A lot of people also don't have faith in seat belts or they fear that they could be trapped in a crash."

Oftentimes, people purchase cars with seat belts that don't work and never get them fixed or replaced. Many car models have devices that alert drivers when their seat belts are not on with a constant audio signal. Braxton said some drivers go as far as breaking their seat belts to eliminate the noise without any guilt.

And while New York City residents rely heavily on public transportation, cab drivers could do more to ensure riders are wearing their seat belts.

In an effort to get the word out about seat belt safety, Walker said USDOT had partnered with several national Black organizations.

"We are partnering with 15 national organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women, the National Medical Association and the National Urban League," Braxton said. "The NAACP is also looking out for how to get the message out to their membership. Most of the organizations have taken a keen interest in the issues and are very surprised about the stats."

Walker said churches are also playing a vital role in the campaign - June 12 was deemed "Seat Belt Sunday," when Black church leaders spoke to their congregations about the importance of buckling up and provided them with the scary statistics. Announcements were also put in church bulletins.

"Everyone can have a role in being a hero by encouraging someone to do something as simple as buckle," said Walker.

Alphas, Icons and Family Visit MLK Memorial

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Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World –

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Park Service formally welcomed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as America’s 395th national park on Aug. 28 – the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service also emphasized its commitment to working closely with the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Foundation to reschedule the ceremonial dedication planned for last week that was unfortunately postponed due to Hurricane Irene.

“Welcoming this memorial to the National Mall honors a heroic man and a critical chapter in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Martin Luther King Jr. mobilized the power of faith and morality to break the chains of oppression that held our nation back. I commend the MLK Foundation and Harry Johnson for their tireless work in making this memorial a reality, so that we may always be reminded of the work that is yet to be done to achieve Dr. King's dream and a more perfect union.”

“Forty-eight years ago, Dr. King took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and challenged our nation to fulfill his dream of equality for all Americans,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “On the anniversary of that speech, we are proud to add the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the National Park System as a lasting tribute to this American hero. We look forward to working with the MLK Foundation to reschedule the formal dedication and hope that many of the tens of thousands of people who had planned to attend will be able to participate.”

In 1996, Congress authorized Dr. King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, to establish a memorial to the civil rights leader in Washington. The group formed the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation and held a competition for the design. A site along the Tidal Basin of the National Mall was chosen for the memorial.

After 15 years of effort, a granite likeness of Dr. King emerges from the memorial’s Stone of Hope and stands resolutely between iconic monuments to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

“From World War II to Vietnam veterans, from Lincoln to Jefferson and now to King, the memorials and monuments along the National Mall are where millions of visitors every year learn about our history,” said Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. “The National Park Service is honored to serve as the keeper of America’s story, and with this new memorial, to have this incredible venue from which to share the courage of one man and the struggle for civil rights that he led.”

The memorial to Dr. King is part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks and is open to the public. National Park Service rangers provide programs for visitors and answer questions. For more information and photographs, see www.nps.gov/mlkm.

President Obama's Critics Compare Him to Martin Luther King

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By Erica Butler, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

In the midst of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration, a disgruntled Washingtonian protested in front of the Washington Convention Center—which housed most MLK celebration events—and began to chant anti-Obama idioms.

On Aug. 26, right after the “Table of Brotherhood Project” panel discussion, Hassan Shabazz, 45, stood outside of the Washington Convention Center during the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration week on Aug. 26 with a poster that read, “America has betrayed Dr. King's dream” and on the flipside, “No Jobs! No second term Obama!”

Shabazz repeatedly chanted, “Obama, you can’t run forever Obama. You better help the poor Obama,” on the corner of New York Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C.

His reason: To prove that Obama has put King’s legacy to shame. He is part of a growing chorus of Black criticism, and skepticism, about the link between the Obama presidency and Black America.

Some people say that Obama, as the first Black president of the U.S., has fulfilled a dream African Americans did not think they would see in their lifetime.

But Shabazz said that’s the only “dream” Obama has lived up to. He said the president’s policies and actions have not impacted the Black community enough to say he has lived up to King’s dream of economic prosperity.

“What is he doing for the poor? Is that following Dr. King’s dream?” Shabazz said. “All the poor Blacks are getting evicted in S.E. (D.C.) He’s got to come back to the Black community one day.”

PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and African American scholar Cornel West have emerged as prominent critics of Obama and recently grabbed the public’s attention as the duo conducted a 16-city “Poverty Tour.” On their website, West said the tour is not an “anti-Obama tour,” but a call for the president and Congress to help Americans who were hardest hit by the recession.

“…it would be nice to hear the president say the word ‘poor.’ To say the word ‘poverty,” Smiley told the Associated Press. “We get conversations about the middle class. Well, the new poor are the former middle class. But we can’t get this president or any leaders to say the words ‘poor’ or ‘poverty,’ much less do anything about it.”

What’s Smiley and West’s inspiration for the tour? A quote from Dr. King, which reads:

“I choose to identify with the underprivileged, I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to give my life for the hungry, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. . .”

In an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show this week, President Obama reacted to criticism from African-American leaders and said their disapproval is expected.

“…when things are going good, you get the credit, when things are tough, you get the blame, that’s the nature of the Office. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. I think about what we can do to get the economy growing faster,” Obama said.

With U.S. unemployment numbers stagnant at 9.1 percent with no added jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, Obama’s criticism may continue to grow. But the White House is pinning hopes for a public opinion reversal on a major speech Obama will give Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. Professor Harley Shaiken from the University of California, Berkley called the speech “critical.”

“It could be the opening of a renewed effort on jobs that really gets labor excited, or it could be too little too late, which really increases the frustration,” Shaiken told NPR. “It's going to be an important speech, and it will define where labor is on Election Day.”

John Earnest, spokesman for the White House, told NPR that Obama’s speech would define a common ground between workers and employers.

“It's the president's view that there are a lot of aligned interests here,” Earnest said, “that there's an opportunity for us to put in place the kind of economic policies that could be supported by Democrats and Republicans, that could be supported by American businesses and American workers, that there are American communities all across the country that could benefit from these policies.”

Shabazz, a laid-off construction worker, said that the president’s financial bailouts for major companies and other policies have led the poor to believe they are not top priority.

“We know Dr. King was a great man, we know what he represented, but [is the Obama Administration] practicing it?

“I’m not for Obama. I voted for him, but not anymore,” Shabazz said.

Ray Baker, talk show host of Howard University’s radio station WHUR and brotherhood project panelist, called a comparison between King and Obama “unfair.” He said the only connection the two have is Aug. 28, Obama’s “I Have a Dream” speech in ’63 and the day Obama accepted the democratic nomination for president in ’08.’

“Let's remember Dr. King was a preacher first, so everything he did had to make complete sense to his moral conscience,” Baker told The AFRO. “Dr. King had no constituency and no one to answer to but his own morality so he was in a position to take on the establishment and critique power in honest and ultimately life threatening ways.”

Baker said he doesn’t think Obama has let down King’s legacy because their works are in “different lanes.”

“President Obama has elected to do his work inside the metaphorical establishment, so he is either unwilling or unable to make those same unfettered critiques of power that Dr. King made,” he said.

As the president gears up for a possible re-election next year, analysts cannot definitively determine if public backlash from Black leaders could impact the “Black vote,” but leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus said Black voters may stay home next year if unemployment rates remain unchanged.

“The worry should be … are people going to be enthusiastic about getting to the polls, or are they not going to be as enthusiastic,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) told the Wall Street Journal.

“I'm frustrated with the president, I'm frustrated with the Senate, I'm frustrated with the House,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), who is also chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The president and his White House team is trying to minimize the discussion of race as it relates to job creation.”

White House Rejects Bid for Marcus Garvey Posthumous Pardon

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By Tony Best, Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News –

A bid to secure a posthumous presidential pardon for Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, has been rejected out of hand by the Barack Obama White House in Washington.

But the Administration’s rejection is unlikely to end the campaign in and out of the United States, Jamaica and elsewhere to clear the name of the iconic figure.

Garvey, who led the greatest mass movement of Blacks in the United States in the first half of the 20th century and is often credited by historians and other experts with promoting the economic, social and political interests of the ordinary Black person as no other had been able to do for more than half a century, had a following that ran into the millions in the Western Hemisphere. He was convicted in U.S. federal court in the 1920s of mail fraud involving $25 and was incarcerated for almost three years before he was released and deported to Jamaica. He died in London in 1940 and was initially buried there but his remains were exhumed from Kensal Green Cemetery in 1964 and returned to Jamaica where they were re-interred at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

In a letter to Donovan Parker, a Jamaican attorney in Florida, who has been writing to the U.S. President every week requesting clemency, Ronald Rogers, White House pardon attorney, stated that the limited resources of the Justice Department would be better spent on other requests for presidential clemency.

“It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offences not be processed for adjudication,” Rogers told Parker in a sharply worded response. “The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on pardon and commutation requests of living persons.

“Many posthumous pardon requests would likely be based on a claim of manifest injustice, and given the decades that have passed since the event and the historical record would have been scoured to objectively and comprehensively investigate such applications, it is the Department’s position that the limited resources which are available to process requests for presidential clemency – now being submitted in record numbers – are best dedicated to requests submitted by persons who can benefit from a grant of the request,” Rogers stated.

In a letter to the White House, Parker described Garvey as a “leading forbearer of the African-American civil rights experience.”

He said that “it is full time that this extra-ordinary human being of humble beginnings and strong moral character be pardoned by the pen of an American President. It would be fitting if both you, Mr. President, and the first lady visit Jamaica for the purpose of signing the executive order pardoning Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”

After receiving the White House rejection, Parker said that he disappointed and urged Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. Ambassador in Jamaica, to join in the call for the pardon.

“I believe there has been no coordinated effort to get this issue in front of the President,” Parker said. “I think if President Obama reads it (the request), he will sign it.”

What has upset many supporters of the clemency application was the tone of Roger’s reply, which Miguel Lorne of the Marcus Garvey founded People’s Political Alliance found unacceptable.

“The language used in the reply was most disdainful. It makes you wonder if Obama actually read the request,” he said. “Obama must know about Garvey, who is the forerunner of the civil rights movement. It is most disappointing.”

Legal experts and other who have studied the Garvey case have long concluded that he was framed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and wrongfully convicted.

Successive Jamaican governments and their leaders, including Edward Seaga, of the Jamaica Labor Party, and Portia Simpson-Miller, the country’s first female Prime Minister, have called for the pardon but it was not been granted by either Republican or Democratic Presidents.

Black Leadership in UK Wants End to Assault on Youth, Community

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By Starla Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) - Black youth are still being unfairly blamed and targeted in the aftermath of the civil unrest and rebellion that gripped the streets of London and other cities in early August, charge UK activists.

Despite media footage that clearly proves White, Asian and Black youth participating in the violence that erupted, Black youth have seemingly been subjected to increased racial profiling by police in light of Prime Minister David Cameron's vow to identify, prosecute and jail all those involved.

Increased racial profiling of Black youth stemming from the unrest is the result and is the biggest issue that needs to be discussed, says Hilary Muhammad, UK representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

“Not only are we having racial profiling here, we're also having dress profiling, we're also having age profiling and ethnicity profiling. So with this, if young brothers are walking around with hoodies on and with scarves around their necks then they're being stopped by four to six police officers at a time,” says Muhammad. It is systematic now, he adds.

“Wearing a hoodie is really just a draw to get stopped so they have become very heavy handed in their tactics and the laws that they are enforcing to really prevent young people from assembling more than three or four at a time,” says Muhammad.

Hughie Rose of the UK Chapter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) says not only are Black youth being pulled over or stopped but for those now facing charges for riot-related offenses, their right to fair and swift legal representation is being questioned.

“They're actually expediting our youth very quickly through the court system without any proper legal advice or anybody watching the case. They're doing 24 hour courts now and shutting off the courts to the public and doing the court cases in private,” Rose told The Final Call. Even though parents and probation officers can be in the courtroom, Mr. Rose is concerned that youth are treated fairly, Black youth in particular.

The NBPP have teamed up with local UK lawyers and other activist groups to formulate a defense campaign to monitor some of the court sessions in which Black youth are the defendants “to see exactly what they're doing with our youth,” says Rose.

When asked if groups of White youth were also being randomly stopped or pulled over by police since the uprising, Muhammad responded, “If they are it's nowhere near the proportion that Black people are being abused and ill-effected by these draconian laws. No, no, no! White people don't have to suffer these kinds of things. These things are reserved for us as a people” says Muhammad.

“What this says to me is that this was planned by government to introduce these types of draconian measures,” he adds.

“There have been increased policing laws. Arresting people right now for having a new pair of trainers (sneakers) on and if you don't have the receipt with it. They're just arresting you automatically … and since they've got the extra policing down here, 16,000 onto the scene they've gone buck wild in the community,” says Rose, also noting preliminary reports that 11 police officers pepper sprayed and assaulted another Black man, Jacob Michaels, resulting in his death Aug. 22 in a predominately White area near Manchester.

This would mark 16 Black men killed by police this year alone in the UK. Reports allege the officers repeatedly beat and kicked Michaels while he was handcuffed and on the ground.

The police shooting of Mark Duggan, another Black man, is what activists say sparked the latest round of unrest.

“If a young person is wearing a hooded top, the police have the right to pull them over, question, search. They have the right to ask you to remove any item of clothing they feel can cover your head or your face. Be it baseball caps, be it hats, be it hooded tops,” says community activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad.

Through how Black youth dress, Hakim Muhammad says, a more extreme level of racial profiling is imminent.

However the UK's grassroots Black activist movement is not taking this issue lightly and refuses to remain silent. The future of Britain's Black youth must be in the hands of parents and concerned and committed community citizens, not the government, says Hilary Muhammad.

Since the unrest, several groups have had town hall meetings and emergency forums to come up with solutions to problems facing Black youth.

Rose says Black organizations in South London, Tottenham and other areas are actively formulating campaigns and are coming together in an effort to join forces in a community-wide effort.

“It has galvanized the community to take a better organized action so that's one good thing that's come out of it,” says Rose.

Another broad coalition of Black leaders and organizations representing differing philosophies but harboring the same goal of taking ownership of their communities gathered recently at the Broadwater Farm Community Center in Tottenham, where Duggan was killed, to discuss problems but more importantly to enact solutions in response to the crisis gripping Black Britons.

Tottenham is significant to Black Brits because of the wave of civil unrest that occurred here 30 years ago, says Trevor Hakim Muhammad. “This was one of the places back in the mid-80s of the first level of civil unrest and uprisings that happened. When the Black community became frustrated … wanting a sense of empowerment to fight back against the establishment, mainly the police who were acting under stop and search laws where they could just stop a young Black person and totally racial profile and arrest you just because they felt they had a suspicion you were going to do something,” he explains.

Some of the most historic uprisings in the UK have taken place at Broadwater Farm, an area Hakim Muhammad describes as the U.S. equivalent of public housing developments or “the projects.”

“The nature of it (the meeting) is to discuss what happened, why it happened and what are we going to do going forward,” says Hilary Muhammad, one of many helping organize and coordinate the historic call to organization and action.

Hilary Muhammad hopes representatives from such groups as the Hebrew Israelite Nation, Pan-Africanists, local leaders, community activists, youth leaders and “every strata of representation in the community” will attend the gathering.

“What has happened has showed us that if leadership is divided then we can't speak to division among our youth who may enter into what's known as youth organizations, what's known as gangs and what-not. Our people are fighting each other over turf and different areas wherein we live and they are deriving such a warped perspective from those of us that are supposed to be in leadership who cannot agree on an agenda that will take our community forward,” he says.

“If the leadership is organized, regardless to language, regardless to faith, regardless to tradition then our young people can extract that example from us of unity. Regardless of dress or labels, then we can unify our youth but it starts with a unified message from the adults” says Hilary Muhammad.

“In order for us to evolve out from underneath the table of the enemy, we must now look toward the leader within ourselves and look toward as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan taught us, God Almighty for the solution to our problem because our problem cannot be solved or resolved on the physical level. Our problem can only be solved and resolved on the spiritual level. The leadership must come together to thrash out ways and means to which we can resolve the problems of the times that we have entered into,” says the Nation of Islam student minister.

Speakers and presenters at the upcoming community meeting include, Student Minister Muhammad; Chairman of the West Indian Standing Conference Clarence Thompson; founding director of Nu-Beyond Ltd: Learning By Choice Dr. William “Lez” Henry; youth activist Mikel Ameen, Uni-Hood; activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad; social intervention specialist Twilight Bey; youth activist Ayeshah Muhammad; Chair of Queen Mother Moor School the Rev. Hewie Andrews; Student Protocol Director for the Nation of Islam Ishea Muhammad and many others who have voiced support of and solidarity with the event.

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