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Human Tragedy and Triumph = Ratings Magic

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By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) I am always fascinated by the impact of human emotions on our consumer behavior – whether those emotions are inspired by tragedy or triumph. Two television broadcasts made ratings history recently, one because of a tragedy and one because of a triumph: the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on CBS and the contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks, February 10, on ESPN.

Nielsen research has proven Americans love sports and music programming. African- Americans are typically well-represented in both. The Grammy Awards have been a viewing favorite. Research backs up the common sense notion that Blacks tend to gravitate to programming where there are larger numbers of people who look like us – but this year, the number of us who watched the Grammys was almost off the charts (no pun intended). The recent 54th Annual Grammy Awards attracted nearly 40 million viewers (39.9 million), which made it the largest Grammy audience since 1984 and the second largest in the history of the broadcast. Of those 39.9 million viewers, African-Americans made up 6.21 million. That means a whopping 60% more Black folks watched the Grammys this year than last (3.7 million out of a total viewership of 24.7 million in 2011).

Some people like me may tune in to see who’s wearing what. How fabulous will our favorites be, or how outrageous? Others are true music aficionados. While the why for this year’s phenomenal success of the Grammys has not yet been officially analyzed, I suspect that the tragic news of the sudden death of beloved music icon Whitney Houston the night before piqued the increased interest. If you were like me and my friends, we were reeling with disbelief. Tuning into the Grammys seemed to offer a kind of solace and comradery in our collective desire to pay homage to a musical phenomenon who was one of our own.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the show didn’t hold my attention for long beyond the luscious LL’s prayer for “our fallen sister” (a very nice touch). But after his intro and having glimpsed the outrageous outfits of Nicki Minaj, Gaga and the sweet acknowledgements from Alicia Keys and Bruno Mars, I begged my Facebook friends to wake me up when they got to the Whitney tribute. Someone from Ft. Wayne, Ind. (my hometown) actually alerted me when Glen Campbell’s tribute came on. (You couldn’t grow up in the Fort without being inundated with his music back in the day). So I loudly and proudly sang along to the tribute. My son watched me with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. “Really, mom?! Seriously, you LIKE this country music?” (If he reacted like this to my Glen Campbell tribute, he does NOT want to be around when my sister, his Aunt Natalie, goes berserk over Kenny Rogers). Following Jennifer Hudson’s moving tribute of “I Will Always Love You,” and after fighting back tears, I clicked off.

On the flip side, Americans love to cheer on an underdog, a “Rocky,” a champion who rises from the ashes of obscurity to achieve victory. In two words: Jeremy Lin. It was my basketball-playing son who turned me onto the phenomenon that was taking place with the undrafted 23-year old, Harvard-educated Asian-American from California and his fortuitous match-up against the New Jersey Nets. Lin has averaged 27 points per game – launching him from bench warmer to global superstar. In addition to a 73 percent increase in viewership of Knicks games on MSG and ESPN in New York, nationally the February 10 game between the Knicks and the Lakers on ESPN was the most-watched Friday night regular season NBA game on the network, so far this season – with just over three million viewers.

On top of that, NM Incite (a Nielsen McKinsey company) reports that social media buzz has also hit a frenzied pitch around the world since the first February 4 game. Even the phrase “LinSanity” has been coined. The online chatter about Lin has surpassed conversations about the Knicks, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant combined. Now, that’s powerful. And so are you. Because, if you follow these ratings stories, you know these surges in increased viewership are a result of people just like you and me tuning in. It’s great news for the networks as well as the advertisers. Those advertisers are dedicated to reaching us – the consumers. Which brings me to my mantra, “Knowledge is power.” The power is in your hands, and so is the remote control.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.

President Obama Appoints Mayor Villaraigosa as Chairman of Democratic National Convention

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Written by Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., Contributing Writer
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been tapped by President Barack Obama to be the gavel to gavel Chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention to begin Monday, September 3, 2012 and end Thursday, September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mayor Villaraigosa is the second Californian to be appointed to this position. Senator Dianne Feinstein was appointed the 2008 Convention Chairperson in Denver, Colorado, when President Obama received the Democratic nomination over now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When asked about this prestigious appointment Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had this to say. “It’s an honor to serve my party and my President as Convention Chair. Through this convention, we will focus on the importance of civic engagement. We will draw on the inspiration of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, as we empower people at the grassroots level and include all Americans.

“The president began his journey five years ago with a conversation-friends reaching out to neighbors, families talking around the dinner table. At this convention, we want to engage Americans in a conversation about how we can strengthen the country in a way that creates more opportunity for all.

“I’m excited to be a part of this convention – the most open and accessible in history. It’s going to be about Americans coming together. From format to funding, we want to increase the influence of the grassroots, and empower more Americans to become involved in the political process.”

When learning of the Mayor’s appointment, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, secretary of the California Democratic Party and the highest ranking African American in the party, had this to say.

“Congratulations to Mayor Villaraigosa, I know the mayor will do an excellent job as chairman, I am confident he and his committee will make sure that both the President and the party are well represented, and that there will be a spirit of inclusiveness for everyone.”

Jones-Sawyer was a California delegate at the 2008 convention as well as currently a candidate for the California State Assembly.

Reports Released on Whitney Houston’s Final Days, Cause of Death Not Released

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Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

Reports released on Whitney Houston’s final days, cause of death not released In the wake of music icon Whitney Houston’s death, several details chronicling the singer’s final appearances in Los Angeles while taking in the pre-Grammy Awards festivities have come to light.

Earlier on Thursday, Houston dropped by rehearsals for Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party. Several members of the press were there doing a junket. Though Houston greeted people with a warm smile, she “appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and hair that was dripping wet with either sweat or water,” reports The Los Angeles Times.

Describing her as “visibly bloated,” the Times says Houston “displayed erratic behavior throughout the afternoon — flailing her hands frenetically as she spoke to Brandy and Monica, skipping around the ballroom in a child-like fashion and wandering aimlessly about the lobby. It was mentioned by a Grammy staffer that security personnel received calls of the singer doing handstands by the pool.”

On Friday, TMZ reported “partied heavily” at the Beverly Hilton hotel, “drinking and chatting loudly” with friends in the bar.

On Saturday, a reporter for the Daily Beast was taping a segment for VH1′s Behind the Music about the rapper Akon. VH1 was supposed to interview Houston about her upcoming movie, Sparkle. Writes Allison Samuels:

Someone kept banging on the door as we taped, so we stopped. The woman at the door, who it turned out was Houston’s personal assistant, Lynn Volkman, said, “Whitney’s not coming, Whitney’s not coming.” And then finally said, “She’s dead.” Volkman was in a daze.

TMZ reports that Houston’s body was discovered by her aunt, Mary Jones, who had laid out the star’s dress for the evening on the bed and then left the hotel room for about a half hour. When she didn’t come out of the bathroom, Jones entered, pulled Houston out of the tub and began administering CPR.

The autopsy for Houston is complete, but results will not be released, pending toxicology reports, which could take up to six to eight weeks.

“I know there are reports that she maybe was drowned, or did she overdose, but we won’t make a final determination until all the tests are in,” said Ed Winter of the Los Angeles coroner’s office at a news conference on Sunday. He added that “there are no signs of foul play.”

Information from The LA Times, USA Today and the Daily Beast contributed to this report.

Black ex-Cop Shot 28 Times by White Cops is Found Guilty, Fights for Justice

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

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - It was a verdict family, friends and supporters of Howard Morgan did not want to hear, but are determined to fight: Guilty.

Mr. Morgan who is Black, was accused of trying to shoot four White police officers in 2005, just minutes from his home and after being pulled over for a traffic stop on the city’s West Side.

Mr. Morgan was hospitalized six months and underwent several surgeries for injuries he sustained after the officers shot him 28 times during the wee hours of the morning.

During closing arguments, prosecutors painted Mr. Morgan as a reckless man who started the fire fight afraid officers would discover his Firearm Owners Identification card had expired. Defense attorneys argued Mr. Morgan did not fire his weapon at all and that the four young officers with a total of 10 years law enforcement experience, simply overreacted and panicked.

Attorney Herschella Conyers, one of two University of Chicago law professors representing Mr. Morgan argued the prosecution’s theory was “speculative” at best. “Howard Morgan is not a gangster,” she told the jury.

Dan Groth, one of two assistant state attorney’s prosecuting the case, said the four officers showed restraint since Mr. Morgan sustained no bullet wounds in the head. “Every bullet he got, he earned,” said Mr. Groth. The Fraternal Order of Police website praised the assistant state attorney’s for delivering “justice for our own,” in reference to the four officers.

“If they can do this to Mr. Morgan, double jeopardy, and get away with it. Bring a not guilty back into court and retry him on it, then you might as well put your legs up there and be castrated. It’s a castration for Black men and I mean it. It’s just that deadly,” said Mr. Morgan’s wife Rosalind, in response to the Jan. 27 verdict. Jurors deliberated less than four hours before a guilty verdict against the former Chicago police officer.

This was the second trial for Mr. Morgan who was acquitted in 2007 on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm. The jury in the first trial deadlocked on the remaining counts and the judge ordered a new trial (see The Final Call Vol. 31 No. 17). Atty. Conyers said there will be an appeal.

“Obviously we were very disappointed in the verdict. The appeal will be taken and we’ll keep trying to get him out,” Ms. Conyers told The Final Call. Atty. Conyers said her client was very disappointed but not deterred. “Mr. Morgan is a man of faith and I think he’s drawing on that faith to see him through these dark days,” added Atty. Conyers.

Bond for Mr. Morgan, 60, a man with no prior criminal history was immediately revoked said his wife Rosiland. After being allowed to hug her husband for a few seconds, he was immediately taken to Cook County Jail.

Mr. Morgan’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21, exactly seven years to the day he was shot by police. There has been an outpouring of support as well as outrage from members of the Black community and those who argue a grave miscarriage of justice has occurred.

“We realize that this is just round one of the fight. We’ve got round two, three, four, five, six all the way to 15 rounds. A fight goes to 15 rounds so we’re not going to give up and we’re not going to give in,” said Lionel Muhammad, an assistant with the Nation of Islam’s Prison Reform Ministry.

Mrs. Morgan is refusing to give up and is spearheading efforts to keep her husband’s battle in the public. “I’m not letting this die … how would you feel if it happened to you or your brother or your husband?” she asked.

Supporters plan on appealing to local, state and federal politicians and the entire community over what they deem a tremendous injustice and are asking those hoping to assist to contact freehowardmorgan@gmail.com.

'Equality' Lawsuit Continues HBCU Fight

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By Alexis Taylor, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

Maryland’s four historical black institutions continued to forge ahead Monday with their $2.1 billion case against the state, claiming injustice in the way of funding and segregated practices.

Among the scheduled witnesses for the day was Dr. Sue Blanshan, who currently serves as Director of Planning and Academic Affairs for the Maryland Higher Education Committee (MHEC). Dr. Blanshan spoke about the program approval guidelines and the occurrence of program duplication specifically within the state of Maryland. Though Dr. Blanshan gave extensive testimony on the topic of program duplication, her testimony on the steps taken to minimize the occurrences of program duplication related to instances well after those raised in the lawsuit.

In 2005, Morgan State University (MSU) and Towson University were negotiating a special 3+2 Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program. With Towson unwilling to allow MSU to be the sole grantor of the degree, a deal was inked with the University of Baltimore (UB) and approved by the MHEC. Towson’s agreement with UB consequently decimated the number of White students in MSU’s MBA program, even though the MSU MBA was the more mature program.

“Program duplication is very detrimental. It provides an opportunity for a student to make a choice based on race as opposed to what program is being offered at one institution or another,” said former president of Morgan State University, Dr. Earl S. Richardson.

Aside from program duplications, enrollment trends at Black and White institutions were also discussed. Dr. Donald Hossler, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University, gave extensive information on how and when students make their decision to attend an institution of higher learning. Author of 24 publications, Dr. Hossler has studied everything from improved admission and marketing tactics to financial aid, retention and much more. Dr. Hossler now serves as executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Dr. Hossler testified to a trend seen in other states where non-Black students seem to attend more at night, on weekends, and at off-site locations rather than during the day in regularly scheduled classes with Black students.

Though his words seemed to help the plaintiff’s case in many regards, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Dr. Hossler said funding into the billions for Black schools would mean that institutions “would be forced to choose between being a traditionally Black institution and a historically Black institution.” Meaning that adequate funding would bring an influx of non-black students, making its HBI status a reference more to its past roots, not necessarily the actual student body.

“Dr.Hossler was intimating that for us to be successful at one level we would have to accept the possibility of HBIs becoming historical only in name and he is entirely off base there,” said David Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “To think that way you lose sight of what we’re trying to do here- and that is to make HBCUs competitive with TWIs. Let’s achieve that first and worry later,” said Burton, who also disagreed with Dr. Hossler’s view that program duplication is inevitable in metropolitan areas. “With the dual mission that HBIs have, we will always have the mission of outreach to Black persons who need assistance, and that’s not something that TWIs are going to do,” said Burton.

“There’s a reason we have historically black colleges and universities and we have to make sure they are adequately funded,” said Sen. Ben Cardin outside of Courtroom 7D, where the heated battle for Maryland’s four historical black institutions continued.

Senatorial ethics strongly discourage members of Congress from actually stepping inside ongoing proceedings, under the premise that it could be “intimidating for a federal judge” and unduly influence the trial’s outcome.

Nevertheless, the Senator joined a couple of his staff members, which included an alumnus of North Carolina’s Bennett College and a current senior at Morgan State University in the Garmatz Federal Courthouse to add his support.

“I want to see education put first,” he said. “It’s clear to me that we have to guarantee that every child has access to quality education.”

Alumni from all four institutions continue to encourage more students to come together at the courthouse. “We must get more attendance from each college,” said Marvin “Doc” Cheatham in a release calling for students from Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore to converge on the courthouse Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“For so long we allowed inequality to persist in the name of progress at the various institutions,” said Luther Perry, an alumnus and former instructor at Morgan State University. We allowed ourselves to be unequal while we were building. We were deluded, and it is kind of like carbon monoxide: you can’t see it, you can’t smell it- but you can die from it,” said Perry, who also served as a counselor at Coppin State University. “Hopefully this case will be like tear gas that causes us to scream when we become aware of these things.”

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BVN National News Wire