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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.

Plantation Where 14-Year-Old Slave Was Hung to Become Outlet Mall

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By Askia Muhammad, Senior Correspondent
Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The site of a Maryland plantation which is renowned by local historians for its connection to Black history and to the Civil War has lost its historical designation and is on its way to becoming an 85-store outlet mall, after an early January vote by the Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission.

It’s “another tragic event in the story of Salubria,” Bonnie Bick, a local resident and organizer of the Reinvest in the Heart of Oxon Hill (Maryland) campaign told The Final Call. “At the same time that we were reviewing archeological information that said Salubria was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; the vote was taken by the Historic Preservation Commission to take away, not to nominate it for the national register, but to take away its entire historic designation.”

Salubria is the name of a Maryland plantation, where in 1834, a 14-year-old slave girl—possibly influenced by Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in South Hampton, Va., in 1831—poisoned her master’s children and was later sentenced to death. She is listed in the Maryland Archive as the first Maryland woman who was reported to have resisted slavery. She confessed to having two years earlier poisoned an infant child of her slave master. She may be the youngest woman ever to be executed in the United States.

Despite the murders of his children, the plantation owner, horticulturalist Dr. John Bayne became a Union officer in the Civil War, helped convince the state of Maryland to compensate slave owners to free their slaves, and worked to provide public education to freedmen. “John Wilkes Booth might have rode past Salubria, and went on down to where there was a sympathizer,” for his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Ms. Bick pointed out. “Southern Prince George’s County was extremely (sympathetic to the Confederacy),” she said.

The Jan. 12 vote by the P.G. County planning board means all the archeological artifacts at Salubria will be taken out of the ground in order to “prepare it for economic development opportunity that is very poorly located,” said Ms. Bick.

In its findings, county Park and Planning staff concluded that protection of the 2.7 acres should be removed because the site has few remaining physical structures that can be restored or preserved, and the best way for the site to be preserved is through archaeological removal.

The Peterson Co., the developer of the glitzy, nearby National Harbor in Prince George’s County, has now received permission to remove all the archeology from the ground at Salubria, and has had the site’s historic designation removed.

William Shipp, a lawyer representing the Peterson Co., said that had the original structures on the property not been destroyed, the site proposal would have been “a different design than what we have today.” Black residents in the area are angry.

“I’m an African-American woman, and I’m sick of my history being obliterated. Nothing that matters to African Americans has been preserved,” Joyce Hawkins, a 69-year-old Tantallon, Md. resident told Gazette.net last summer when residents first organized to oppose commercial development of the property.

At that time The Washington Business Journal referred to the site in a headline as “Hallowed African American Ground.” But after the vote, Commissioner Robert H. Schnabel said it was “unfortunate” that the structures on the land had not been maintained properly. In 2003, a historic permit was approved that allowed for the demolition of remaining structures on the property. “What was done was inadequate, and it’s completely gone now,” Mr. Schnabel said, according to Gazette.net.

“What really gets me is that Milt Peterson—the developer—he purchased National Harbor property for $10.3 million, and he’s already gotten $500 million subsidy for his entrances and exits from the taxpayer,” Ms. Bick said. “So, it just seems so wrong for them” to take away the Black history, and subsidize it with taxpayer money. “As many as possible of the costs of this development are being externalized to the taxpayers,” she said.

Even the road leading to the projected outlet mall is being widened to four lanes by the county. The developer is proposing to put statues of select individuals in poses telling the story of Salubria, commemorative plaques, an interactive video, and floral and plant arrangements representing Dr. Bayne’s work as a horticulturalist at the site to designate its historical importance.

“It would have a tremendously negative impact on a Black neighborhood,” Ms. Bick argued. “The story has national significance and should be interpreted on the site,” and not removed for study.

A 140 page Phase II Archeological Evaluation prepared in Oct. 2011 by the firm Thunderbird Archeology for the P.G. County Historic Preservation Commission agreed with the preservationists. “It is our opinion that the historic component of (the) site is eligible for listing,” under three of the five criteria of the National Register of Historic Places, the report stated. Any one of these three could be adequate for the site’s qualification for national listing, and its preservation, its supporters insist.

“The location and boundaries of the site (are) considered to have significant research potential … Few National period farms or plantations have been studied at the Phase III level in Prince George’s County, Maryland and the lives of enslaved African Americans in the mid-19th century remains a neglected area of archeological inquiry throughout the region. Expansive and comprehensive data recovery at (the) site would create a valuable record of this significant site,” the report concludes.

“It is so wrong to have the county executive (Rushern Baker) supporting this,” said Ms. Bick. “It’s being promoted as a place for the community to shop, but there are alternatives where it wouldn’t be destroying a residential community that Peterson owns, but he’s not investing there” because he is continuing to buy property at alternative sites at “fire sale prices because of the public safety problems there. It’s very unjust.”

Prince Georges County, Md., is a majority Black county, which ranks as the most educated and affluent Black county in America. The county executive is Black and the majority of the county council is also Black.

The bottom line, Ms. Bick maintains is the negative impact the outlet mall development will have on the community, after the important historic site is destroyed. “Is this going to widen the gap between the economic barriers in the Washington region?” She insists the outlet mall will widen, not narrow the economic barriers.

Morehouse Launching Search for New Leader

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By Bekitembe Eric Taylor, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily Voice –

Morehouse College officials launched a national search for a new chief executive Tuesday, a day after school president Robert M. Franklin announced that he is stepping down from his leadership post when his contract ends June 30.

Board of Trustees president Robert Davidson said Tuesday that no names have yet surfaced to succeed Franklin, who has headed the all-male institution for the last five years.

“We are in the process of forming a search committee to perform a rigorous search for someone who embodies the core values of Morehouse,” said Davidson, a 1967 graduate of the college.

“In the evolution of Morehouse, we want to remain one of the premier institutions in the country,” he added.

Davidson and other college officials praised Franklin for helping to renew the college’s commitment to academic vigor, for doubling alumni donations and for generating more than $90 million in support of the college.

“Robert has led by example, dedicating a substantial portion of his time to community service, which is one of the core values that Morehouse seeks to instill in each and every one of its students,” Davidson said. “We will miss him as the board endeavors to find a replacement who will help to usher the college into a new era.”

While officials were publicly praising Franklin for his leadership, however, college insiders say Franklin was coming under increased scrutiny from board members and influential alumni for poor management decisions that led to a series of fiscal challenges – some say fiascos – at the school.

In an interview with The Atlanta Voice this week, Franklin and Davidson declined to comment about speculation that board members – weary of poor leadership decisions – forced Franklin to step down.

“We have a strict policy that we cannot talk about the financial matters of our staff or the college,” Franklin said. “But I can assure you that Morehouse is operating strongly at this time.”

Franklin, who turns 58 this month, circulated a Jan. 30 letter to college alumni on Monday, announcing that he would not seek another term as the school’s 10th president.

“After much thought and prayer reflection, I have decided to step down as president,” Franklin wrote. “Although I have enjoyed the privilege of serving this great college, and we have witnessed many great successes, I am looking forward to the next chapter of my professional life.”

A 1975 Morehouse graduate, Franklin said he will “pursue my passion for teaching” in various posts around the nation, including as a scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Institute and as president emeritus and distinguished professor of social ethics at Morehouse.

“I look forward to a sabbatical during which I intend to travel, write, speak and interview leaders about the condition of boys and men in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Morehouse’s board of trustees named him President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor, the college’s highest honor.

“Dr. Franklin has served an integral role leading the renaissance of Morehouse, and his dedication is greatly appreciated,” Davidson said in a statement released by the college.

Franklin said wants his tenure to be remembered as one of scholarship and direct outreach to the student body.

“What I will miss about being president are the students,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to mentor to them, and know them to be the best and brightest of America’s treasures.”

HBCU 'Equality' Lawsuit: Black Notables, Former HBCU Presidents and Students Pack Courtroom

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

Dr. Samuel Myers said it “hurt his heart” as he listened to testimony at the ongoing HBCU Equality trial, Jan. 31. The president emeritus of Bowie State College, one of Maryland’s four HBCUs, said he’s spent his life working in higher education. “And I’ve seen the disparities that exist between funding for Blacks in higher education and those generally,” he said. “And I know that the courts have long since ruled that the disparity be eliminated.”

He had no problem declaring, “But it still exists.”

Which is most likely the reason he was joined in the Garmatz Courtroom by other former educators and administrators including Dr. Andrew Billingsley, former president of Morgan State University; Dr. Arthur Thomas, former president Central State University; Dr. Wilma J. Roscoe, retired vice president of National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and Raymond Pierce, dean, North Carolina Central State Law School and who also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton Administration.

Pierce was angered by the visible absence of anyone from the Obama Administration. “It is a shame that the Office for Civil Rights has had no presence in this trial,” Pierce said. “I find it very troubling.”

The absence, he said, raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s commitment to civil rights and educational equality. Myers was incensed that anyone could say HBCUs need to become more competitive with other schools.

“I know each institution needs to and wants to survive in its own right, but this inequitable funding hurts the entire nation. When you have a high unemployment rate among young Black males, education is needed to get them into the workforce,” he said, indicating that his work with national and international organizations gives him a broader perspective.

“It’s not a matter of largesse, not charity, not goodwill to provide equitable treatment for Blacks.”

Claiming that Maryland has perpetuated a system of segregation by underfunding and allowing program duplication by nearby traditionally white schools (TWIs) the presidents were also joined this week by the very students they’re fighting for.

Following the precedent set by Black clergy members who gathered in the courtroom last week to maintain support, students could be seen lining the front row in their business attire, silently making their voices and their presence known. The case, which was filed by The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education in October 2006, drew a crowd of more than 40, made up of university presidents, faculty, students, and concerned citizens.

As students return to classes at Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the case continues to unfold in courtroom 7D of the Garmatz Federal Courthouse building. Testimony from Joseph Vivona, chief operating officer and vice chancellor for administration and finance for the University System of Maryland (USM) could be heard along with that of former Towson University president, Dr. Robert Caret.

“When the investment made by the state in white institutions is compared to the state’s investment in historically Black colleges, there is little comparison,” said Dr. Earl S. Richardson, president of Morgan State University from 1984 to 2010. “If one were to look at the investments made in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and then at Morgan- one can see that there is a stark difference,” said Dr. Richardson in response to Vivona’s testimony, which gave the impression that the state of Maryland has gone out of its way to fund historical Black institutions (HBIs).

“The whole idea of the lawsuit by the Coalition is now to ensure that there is equity in the investment made by the state in Black institutions versus white institutions.”

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) president and CEO, Lezli Baskerville, said “This case will directly impact the shape of the higher education debate in 2012 and beyond in the 25 states that have HBCUs and TWIs, as well as the work of NAFEO.” The organization, which was founded in 1969, is the sole association that represents the chancellors and presidents of HBCUs. “What this court decides will determine whether public higher education in America remains separate and unequal, or whether the nation moves toward a more excellence, equitable and just higher education system…” said Baskerville.

Giving students special incentive to make their way down to the courtroom, some classes are even giving students extra time and credit for sitting on the proceedings. “I would definitely come down and support even if it wasn’t for class credit because I am pursuing my master’s degree in higher education administration and this is an issue in higher education,” said Bera Cotten, of Morgan State University. Encouraging students who are might be sleeping in or hanging out during their spare time before and after class, Cotton says the case allows you to “get an understanding of what’s going on” and “provides you with information dealing with your historical Black institution.”

An alumnus of Coppin University, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham said he was “elated to see the students” who came out and “hoping that more will come.” A staple in the Baltimore community and beyond through his civil rights work with the National Action Network and the NAACP, Cheatham says the case is not only important to Maryland’s historical Black institutions but to those across the country as well who are dealing with issues of underfunding and program duplication.

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