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Roland Martin's Suspension Praised by GLAAD

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By Damon C. Williams, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

Tight spirals and touch passes weren’t the only things tossed around on Super Bowl Sunday. CNN’s popular news anchor Roland Martin allegedly threw around a number of homophobic tweets last weekend, which led to CNN suspending the charismatic host.

“Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offense,” read a statement from CNN, in outlining its move to censure Martin. “Language that demeans in inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not to be tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”

It remains unclear when, or if, CNN will bring Martin back.

According to several news outlets, Martin made numerous tweets that could be taken as promoting anti-gay violence. In one tweet, Martin allegedly advocates beating any man who enjoyed the David Beckham underwear commercial, and in another, he champions a similarly styled beating for a New England Patriot player who wore an all pink suit.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation spokesman Rich Ferraro also released a statement condemning Martin’s tweets, while applauding CNN for its action.

“CNN took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community,” Ferraro said. “We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing anti-LGBT violence, as well as the language that contributes to it.”

For his part, Martin has received and accepted GLAAD’s request for a meeting of the minds, and exchanged tweets with GLAAD, thanking it for the invite and confirming his attendance.

Even the National Association of Black Journalists – usually a staunch defender of one of its own – issued a measured statement in response to the CNN – Roland Martin Twitter affair.

“This is a teachable moment for all journalists. We are reminded that what we communicate in print and broadcast – and now through social media – has considerable power,” said NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr., through a statement released by the organization. “NABJ does not support any commentary in any medium that is insensitive or offensive.

“Mr. Martin is one of our most committed members,” the statement continued. “In lieu of his presence on CNN, until this matter is resolved, we encourage the network to continue to present a diverse offering of voices in its programming.”

While some may see Martin’s words as off-the-cuff comments that weren’t meant to offend, other claim that these types of comments, if left unchecked, that can lead to deadly, hate-fueled confrontations.

In the report, “Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Infected Communities in the United States, 2010,” the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that LGBT-based violence increased by 14 percent from 2009-2010, the latest year of available data. It also showed that hate violence murders are the second highest they’ve been in ten years. So little wonder then that some draw a correlation between hate speech and hate acts.

“I happen to be a big fan of Roland Martin, but I do believe, in terms of prejudicial remarks, that the rules apply and need to be equally enforced,” said Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin. “In this case, I applaud CNN for standing up against prejudicial remarks.”

The Philadelphia-based Equity Forum is a non-profit whose mission is to advance the civil rights of the LGBT community through education, and for Lazin, the first thing that needs to be taught is how damaging and effective words can be.

“What we are seeing here is, whether you’re talking about women, African-Americans or Jews, there’s a certain moment in time when society accepts and incorporates prejudice, until it gets to a certain tipping point,” Lazin said. “And you know you’ve reached that tipping point when society no longer tolerates that type of language.

“When that occurs, particularly with public figures, whether that opinion truly expresses the feelings of that person become irrelevant.”

Lazin feels the explosion of social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook has led to a slight increase in the volume of hate speech floating about, but believes things are starting to turn around, thanks to education and stiffer prosecutions for those committing hate crimes.

“In particular, I think things are starting to turn,” Lazin said. “I think people are connecting speech and the violence that has occurred in gay youth, and it’s important that people have a better understanding of that,” Lazin said. “In Nazi Germany, when a certain speech is allowed, we saw what the ultimate results were. We saw the same things with African-Americans, when disparaging language led to lynchings.

“We see the same things in terms of homophobic speech.”

Samuel L. Jackson: 'I Voted for Obama Because He's Black'

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Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

Actor Samuel L. Jackson says in an interview for the March issue of Ebony magazine that he became a supporter of Barack Obama in 2008 because of his race.

According to the interview, the Oscar-nominated screen legend admits that his decision to vote for Obama had nothing to do with his political beliefs.

“I voted for Barack because he was black. ‘Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them,” Jackson was quoted as saying.

‘That’s American politics, pure and simple,’ he added. “[Obama's] message didn’t mean **** to me. In the end, he’s a politician. I just hoped he would do some of what he said he was gonna do,” Jackson continued. “I know politicians say ****; they lie. ‘Cuz they want to get elected.”

The actor also went on to defend his use of the N-word, explaining it was used at home while he was growing up.

Said Jackson: ‘When it comes down to it, they wouldn’t have elected a n*****, because what’s a n*****? A n***** is scary. Obama ain’t scary at all. N****** don’t have beers at the White House. N****** don’t let some white dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A n***** would have stopped the meeting right there and said, “Who the **** said that?”

$25 Billon Mortgage Settlement Seen as One Step Towards Fairness

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Negotiations Continue with Other Lenders

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

The recent mortgage agreement reached with the nation’s five largest mortgage services brings the first major consumer victory after a nearly year-long effort. State attorneys general, working with the Departments of Justice and HUD together announced a $25 billion settlement for consumers in 49 states. Participating banks are Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

The largest share of the settlement – more than $20 billion — will be dedicated to financial relief for consumers. These funds will be used to assist homeowners with mortgages that are in distress or foreclosure or underwater, now owing more than the home is actually worth. Today, nearly 11 million families with mortgages now owe more than their home is worth.

Additionally, mortgage servicers will pay state and federal governments $5 billion in cash. Among these funds, $3.5 billion will be used to repay public funds spent on the investigation and to fund housing counselors and legal aid. This funding for housing counseling and legal aid is critical to ensuring that homeowners obtain the loan modifications and refinances promised in the settlement. In addition, because the settlement does not affect individual lawsuits, the legal aid funding will help homeowners defend themselves against improper foreclosure actions involving mortgage fraud, servicer misconduct or other legal violations.

The remaining $1.5 billion will establish a Borrower Payment Fund to provide cash payments to eligible borrowers whose homes were sold or taken in foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011. This specific initiative is in addition to restitution already administered by federal banking regulators.

The value of the settlement also will increase if negotiations with nine other lenders reach a successful agreement.

Commenting on the agreement second in size only to the 1998 tobacco settlement, President Obama said, “No action, no matter how meaningful, is going to entirely heal the housing market. But this settlement is a start.”

Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) agreed, adding, “Despite its limitations, the settlement requires real reforms in the mortgage servicing industry to stop sloppy business practices and out-and-out fraud. It will also help stabilize housing markets and property values by giving more homeowners a chance to restructure or refinance out of unaffordable loans that are underwater.”

For consumers and communities seeking financial relief and fairness, the settlement offers three key takeaways:

Bank accountability: The settlement preserves the right to pursue claims of criminal violations. State attorneys general can also initiate cases related to fair lending abuses and securities fraud.

A stop to robo-signing and other mortgage servicing abuses: Banks are required to review foreclosure documents individually. Before a foreclosure can lawfully proceed, other options must be exhausted. Settlement payments for each family affected by robo-signing could receive $2,000. Even if a payment is accepted, homeowners who have already lost their homes to foreclosure could still sue the bank for damages.

Strong enforcement: An independent monitor will regularly assess bank performance against a series of measures related to loan modifications and foreclosure. Any violations found will trigger penalties up to $1 million per violation or up to $5 million for certain repeat violations. Joseph A. Smith, most recently the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks, will oversee implementation of the new servicing standards.

In June 2010, CRL research found that African-American and Latino homeowners with mortgages lost $350 billion of family wealth through foreclosures. A 2011 foreclosure update by CRL again found that these communities of color continued to suffer disproportionate losses. Even when African-American and Latino consumers had high credit scores of 660 or more, they were still three times more likely than similar white consumers to receive a high-cost loan with risky features.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said of the settlement, You cannot put a dollar value on the suffering of these families but we can seek progress. And today’s settlement is a step in the right direction.”

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

Apple, Sony Music Blasted After iTunes Whitney Houston Price Hike

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By Ishmael H. Sistrunk, Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

According to digitalspy.com, the price for Whitney Houston’s greatest hits album, The Ultimate Collection,jumped from $4.70 to $14.99 on iTunes after news of the singer’s death.

Upset fans accused Apple of trying to capitalize on the Houston’s death. Apple in turn pointed the finger at Sony Music, saying the record company increased the wholesale cost of the album, causing the iTunes price to automatically increase.

Apple later returned the album to its original price late Sunday. No word on whether other online stores such as Amazon and Google Music were affected.

Powerless Majority? State of the Dream 2012 Says Non-Whites Will Still Suffer as Largest U.S. Group

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By Charlene Muhammad, National Correspondent
Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) – People of color will be the majority of America’s population by 2042. They will also remain the least wealthy, least employed, least educated, and the most incarcerated, unless the country steps up efforts to close its racial economic divide, according to a new report by United for a Fair Economy.

“State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority” is the Boston-based economic think tank’s ninth annual assessment of progress on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of justice and equality since his assassination.

The 2012 report measured 30 years of public policy on the racial divide and its impact on economics, poverty, education, homeownership, health care, and incarceration. The outlook was bleak.

“I keep asking myself, ‘Why is everyone marching out in the streets? I think this is not good enough for America. Forty years after Dr. King died and we’re still where he was, fighting about the disparities in income, wealth, education, and incarceration,” said Wanjiku Mwangi, Racial Wealth Divide Initiative leader for United for a Fair Economy and report co-author.

The report forecasts poverty rates for Blacks will be 1.9 times higher than for Whites, and for Latinos, 2.6 times higher. Black and Latino unemployment rates will be 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than White unemployment rates, respectively, it continues.

“The main thing that struck me was how for the last 10 years, even pre-recession, how income and wealth equality was declining for disenfranchised minorities and poverty was increasing. If this continues into mid-21st century then, racial disparities will be even worse than projected by 2042,” said Dedrick Muhammad, NAACP senior director of the Economic Department and executive director of the Financial Freedom Center. He formerly worked for United for a Fair Economy and contributed to the report.

Authors cited education as one of the most important tools people have for climbing social and economic ladders, but disparities perpetuate inequality. Any gains made during the civil rights era are threatened by restrictions on affirmative action in higher education, spiraling college costs and underfunding of education.

In addition, according to Ms. Mwangi, Blacks are six times more likely to be in prison than Whites and people of color make up over 65 percent of the prison population and five million Blacks will be imprisoned in 2042 if things continue.

She feels that while America has made some progress, a great lack remains because people have ignored the institutions, programs, and structural practices that have historically kept people of color down. The treatment of Blacks during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is one example, she continued.

“The official response to that disaster makes you think about how little things tend to affect what we do, think, and how our institutions operate … And carry forward back and look at all institutions in education and unemployment. Those things are still perpetuated,” Ms. Mwangi said.

She believes there’s hope if America invests in infrastructure, jobs, and education. Without education, there’s no income and without income there’s poverty and no food. People are jailed and cycles continue, so the solutions are for the good of everyone, not just Blacks and people of color, she added.

The answer to the crisis facing Black America is it must do for self, guides the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. A first step is to pool money in a national treasury to buy farmland and rebuild wasted cities, he said during a January 9 interview with Cliff Kelley on WVON-AM 1690.

“Obama cannot make jobs for all of us who are unemployed, but we can,” Min. Farrakhan said, continuing that donations to a national fund of as little as one nickel-a-day to $1-a-month would yield $480 million in one year.

Blacks will need every cent of that amount to survive the future, if the report’s predictions manifest.

As disenfranchised minorities become a larger proportion of the population, their inclination to support more progressive policy will advance policies most helpful to rebuild a middle class economy, according to Mr. Muhammad.

“Yet as money becomes more and more of a determining factor in politics and barriers to voting become more and more common, the democratic voice of minorities will probably be weakened,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Report recommendations include stemming the foreclosure crisis by offering loan modification programs, increasing federal funding for higher education, and ending the war on drugs to substantially impact the racial economic divide due in upcoming decades and begin realizing Dr. King’s dream.

Each year the organization releases its State of the Dream report on or around Jan. 15. The date is referred to as “King Day” and commemorates the civil rights leader’s birthday. Tragically, many disparities he fought and sacrificed his life for still plague people of color, Ms. Mwangi said.

“We have a nation that has a history of racial inequality and White supremacy, all the things that have been put in place 50 years ago, 100 years ago, are still together, intact. If you break down all those institutional structures and start looking at things in a different way, we’ll continue talking about disparities because we’re not fighting the real thing,” Ms. Mwangi said.

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