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Black Clergy Igniting Support for HBCU Equality Lawsuit

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

In keeping with the tradition of fighting for and supporting historical Black universities and colleges (HBCU), leaders and members of local Black churches crowded into courtroom 7D of the Garmatz Federal Courthouse Jan. 24 to show support for the ongoing Maryland HBCU Equality Lawsuit.

“Silence is betrayal,” said the Rev. Errol D. Gilliard, pastor of Greater Harvest Baptist Church, expressing the reason it is so important for not only the church, but African Americans in every field to rally behind the case. “There is a new form of white supremacy and the Black church needs to be in the fight.”

With few African-American politicians taking a public stance in support of the case, pastors, ministers, and alumni of the HBCUs gathered to show that even weeks into the case, support is still growing. “It is a great injustice to the constituency that put them in office for our Black politicians alone to practice such field plantation politics,” said Rev. Gilliard, in reference to the sheer dearth of public support for the case from African American elected officials.

Begun on Jan. 3, the case, which is set to last six weeks, was brought by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education against the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and was originally filed in October 2006. Claiming a system of de jure segregation, or segregation by law, as the key factor in disparities between the four HBCU’s in Maryland and their white counterparts, Bowie State University (BSU), Coppin State University (CSU), Morgan State University (MSU), and University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES) are seeking $2.1 billion in damages to invest in the institutions that currently lack funding and struggle to operate at their full potential.

“The Black church has always stood by to give the life-blood shot that is needed,” said the pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, the Rev. Dr. A.C.D. Vaughn explaining the reason it is imperative for those in ministry to support the cause of Maryland’s HBCUs and those across the country.

Begun in 1867, Morgan State University, like many HBCUs, has roots intertwined deeply with the Black church as it began as the Centenary Biblical Institute, where freed male slaves were trained to become ministers of the gospel.

“It is critical that states be made to step up to the plate and fund these institutions at an appropriate level because it is not only legally required it is the right thing to do,” said A. Recardo Perry, emeritus vice-president of student affairs at Morgan State University.

Alumni and staff from CSU and MSU could be seen paying close attention to the testimonies before U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake, as they remembered their own days at underfunded HBCUs with insufficient textbooks and facilities.

“This should not just be supported by Black people but by Whites who are interested in a level playing field,” said Dr. Kenneth Morgan, assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Studies for Coppin State University. A graduate of Temple University, Dr. Morgan said everyone should “read the case and understand what the issue is,” then become involved directly or indirectly.

“We are not victims,” said Dr. Morgan, “but in order for us to succeed, we have to organize and make our voices known.”

In addition to addressing financial issues, the case will also take on the blind eye turned to duplicate programming, which routinely draws students away from HBCUs when traditionally white institutions in the same area (TWIs) offer the same special degree programs.

Taking the stand Jan. 24, Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland system, offered explanations as to why the duplication of the specialty programs, such as the MSU Masters of Business Administration, were allowed at nearby TWIs such as Towson University and University of Baltimore.

“It’s certainly a different version than what we know to be the facts. The documents that relate to the MBA say that it is quite different from the presentation that Dr. Kirwan made. I’m sure he just didn’t recall certain facts and made mistakes,” said Dr. Earl Richardson, in response to the testimony of Dr. Kirwan. President of Morgan State University, from 1984 to 2010, Dr. Richardson oversaw major transformations of the northeast Baltimore campus and understands first hand not only the problems with underfunding, but program duplication by nearby universities.

“It’s the same old excuses we’ve been dealing with for thirty years. When you don’t mean to do right, it’s easy to make excuses,” said Rev. Vaughn.

“Our concern is real equity for all of the schools. When you look at taxes, the same amount is taken from the White schools as the Black schools,” said Rev. Vaughn, who says even though Coppin and Morgan State are geographically easily accessible in Baltimore, program duplication from TWIs incites students to travel much further unnecessarily.

Program duplication became one of many official indicators of a segregated university system with the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Fordice, 505 U.S. 717 (1992). The case that focused on Mississippi’s de jure segregation of colleges and universities, set precedents for the entire country with its ruling.

After Attacks, Malawi President Retracts Negative View of Women in Pants

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has stepped back from remarks earlier this month criticizing women for wearing pants or miniskirts. The remarks triggered an outbreak of beatings and of tearing clothes off women over their choice of attire.

In a 15 minute national address, President Mutharika condemned the recent attacks on women mainly by vendors who claimed that the President had ordered it.

“Women who want to wear trousers should do so as you will be protected from thugs, vendors and terrorists,” the president said in a local language, Chichewa. “I will not allow anyone to go on the streets and start undressing women and girls wearing trousers because that is criminal.”

On Friday, Jan. 20, hundreds of girls and women, among them prominent politicians, protested the attacks while wearing pants or miniskirts and T-shirts emblazoned with such slogans as: “Real men don’t harass women.” A recording of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” got a loud cheer when it was played during the protest. Men also took part.

Even the President’s VP chimed in with support for the protestors. “Some of us have spent our entire life fighting for the freedom of women,” Vice President Joyce Banda told the protesters. “It’s shocking some men want to take us back to bondage.”

During the reign of Malawi’s first President Kamuzu Banda, women were not allowed to wear trousers and miniskirts until 1993 when Kamuzu was about to leave power.

South African Schools to Drop Zulu and Xhosa Languages, Stirring Debate

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA for the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – South African Model C primary schools have been quietly removing Zulu and Xhosa languages from their curriculum leaving English and Afrikaans, popularly known as “the oppressors’ language” during the apartheid era as the medium of Instruction.

The move was described as “tragic” by academics even though Afrikaans appears to be the next dominant idiom after English.

Officially, students should be taught in their mother tongue from Grades 1 to 3, but a survey by the Sunday Times newspaper found this was not happening. In fact, by the time they got to 12th year, most pupils were opting for Afrikaans as their first additional language after English with 68,455 choosing Afrikaans, 10,943 choosing Zulu and 1,547 choosing Xhosa.

A letter from Mntomuhle Khawula of the Inkatha Freedom Party and an education advisor, was particularly critical: “Exclusion of African languages (isiZulu and isiXhosa) in some former Model C Primary schools is systematically discriminating and singling out certain racial groups.”

“We cannot sideline our African languages because not only is it an insult to those who speak it but it’s reviving the struggle of languages like it happened many years ago with Bantu education, we need to find a curriculum that will accommodate each and every language.”

Bobby Soobrayan, director of basic education, countered: “It is misleading to say that because of government policy, schools are scrapping African languages in favor of Afrikaans…” However, he added, “Because school governing bodies determine the language policy, some schools choose to offer Afrikaans as the first additional language.”

Soobrayan insisted: “What we want to see is every pupil being competent in an African language when they leave school.

Know Before You Owe

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

Dez Bryant provides a good economic example of what is happening to Blacks across America. In heavy debt after leveraging his first-year salary to pay for “bling-lifestyle” amenities, during the National Football League (NFL) lockout, the 24-year-old wide receiver had to turn to payday lenders to help him keep up his game. Desmond Demond “Dez” Bryant started spending on his salary as a NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys when he was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

During the 18 months before Bryant signed with the Dallas Cowboys, he bought at least seven men’s watches and two more for women. He paid $65,500 for a diamond cross made of white gold and $60,000 for a custom charm. He ordered a set of dog tags made of white gold and diamonds, and all sorts of other rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces in various shades of gold. Bryant got it all through a line of credit with the understanding that he’d settle up once he signed the pro contract that paid him $8.5 million.

While we hold them out to be “successful”, most people don’t know that a third of NFL players live paycheck to paycheck. Or, that by the time NFL players have been retired for two years, 78 percent have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce. Within five years of retirement, 60 percent of former NFL players are broke.

We all don’t have to be buying gold grills; but Bryant shows how cash and credit poses problems for not only rich Black athletes but, normal folks in the hood as well. More people are using payday lenders to secure essentials critical to daily life, and pay for medical emergencies, tuition fees and house bills that include water and electricity. There are more payday lending stores than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Payday lending has grown into a $40 billion industry.

The popularity of the short-term loan product has grown significantly since the early 1990s. America has 23,000 payday loan stores and there seems to be an increasing demand for them. Nearly 20 million Americans use payday lenders that charge, on average, $16 for a $100 two-week loan.

If you have a job, it’s easy to get one of these high-interest loans. No credit check, car title or other collateral is needed. All you generally need is some proof you have a steady job, a driver’s license and a checking account. Usually, you’re asked to write a post-dated personal check payable to the lender for the amount you want to borrow, plus a fee. You either repay the loan before your next payday or the lender cashes your check.

Prudent thinking is recommended before you sign up for a “payday” type of loan. If you’re having trouble paying the rent, mortgage payment or other monthly bills, talk to current creditors to develop a new payment plan. If you must pursue a payday loan; shop several lenders, find the best loan, then read the loan application/contract carefully and correct any errors. Never make inaccurate statements about your financial condition. Walk away from any lender who offers to falsify information or asks you to sign a loan application where spaces have been left blank. Understand what you sign – be sure that the terms of the loan as written in your contract match what the lender has told you.

On the other hand, it would be wise to look at opportunities to participate in ownership and the profits of payday loan stores and kiosk locations. Half of America’s payday loan stores are owned by independent entrepreneurs who put together approximately $25,000 to open their store. Payday operators can expect to break even in 15 months if they are able to plan and pay out $8,000 a month to pay rent, utilities, one to two employees, signage, advertising, payroll taxes, software, computers, and office supplies and are able to build up to a portfolio of $60,000 in loans.

William Reed is president of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects via the BaileyGroup.org

Tax Refunds: Yours to Keep, Not Lose to High-Cost Lenders

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

Each year as W-2s begin arriving in mailboxes, commercials start promoting a range of services to ‘help’ consumers with tax preparation. These advertisements beckon consumers to take advantage of convenient and worry-free services.

In reality, however, many tax season services are less about convenience and more about taking a hefty portion of refunds consumers have already earned. Each year, high cost tax-related services drain an estimated $11 billion from the pockets of 30 million households with moderate and low-incomes. Two of the most prevalent and high-cost financial ‘services’ are Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) and Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs).

A RAL is a high-cost, short-term loan secured by the taxpayer’s expected refund. Interest rates on a typical RAL are about 150 percent. The fee for the RAL is in addition to the fee for tax preparation. Other add-on fees such as electronic filing, applications, and fees to cash the loan check, wind-up with many taxpayers spending more than 10 percent of their refund, just to get their own money a few days sooner.

According to FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a national survey of self-reported RAL users showed that while 13 percent of African-Americans reporting using a RAL in the last five years, just six percent of whites did.

Similarly, RACs, temporary bank accounts opened for the sole purpose of receiving tax refunds, are another costly loan. Once the refund is deposited, the lender issues the consumer a paper check or prepaid debit card and then closes the account. RAC fees vary, but as with RALs, consumers often elect to have the tax preparation costs deducted from their refund. RAC customers are also charged checking cashing and other add-on fees for this short-term loan.

Consumers most vulnerable to the lure of expensive RALs and RACs are either unbanked or under-banked but are also eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2011 and depending upon family size, the maximum EITC will range from $464 to $5,751. Anyone desiring to learn whether they qualify for this tax credit should visit IRS online at: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), African-Americans alone account for 36.9 percent of the unbanked – consumers without a personal account with either a bank or credit union. Further, Latino and African-American communities together represent more than 60 percent of the nation’s unbanked households

Consumers with bank accounts who turn to non-bank fringe services for day-to-day money management are ‘under-banked’ households. Under-banked households pay more for basic transaction and credit financial services, and additionally are more vulnerable to loss or theft. These families also, according to FDIC, often struggle to build credit histories and achieve financial security.

Rather than wasting a portion of tax refunds on RALs or RACs, consumers would be better served by accessing one of the free tax services available. These locations can be found online at: http://rspnsb.li/wxAmeA. Local IRS offices are available to assist or direct consumers to qualified preparers. Other nonprofit, social service agencies or those serving older residents can also offer referrals to qualified low and no-cost tax assistance.

Most importantly, anyone who hires someone to assist them with their returns should be aware that IRS holds the tax filer accountable for their selection of a preparer. Every qualified tax preparer must sign the return and also enter their assigned Preparer Tax Identification Number. Tax preparers are also required to give taxpayers a copy of their own returns.

Tax refunds represent monies owed. Every consumer is entitled to keep as much of it as possible.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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BVN National News Wire