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Congressional Black Caucus Job Fairs Draw Thousands Seeking Work

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

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Thousands upon thousands of recession-weary job seekers lined up for hours at a time to attend each of a national series of job fairs and related town hall meetings convened by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in five cities throughout the month of August.

In Atlanta, job seekers camped overnight wearing business suits in tormenting heat, for an opportunity to meet the 90 employers who attended there, according to a broadcast report. The line of job seekers snaked for blocks outside Atlanta Technical College, creating miles of traffic backups in Southwest Atlanta.

The first job fair and town hall meeting was hosted Aug. 8 by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-MO) in Cleveland. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)—dean of the CBC—and Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) hosted the sessions at Wayne County Community College in Detroit on Aug. 16. The Atlanta sessions were hosted by civil rights veteran Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and colleague Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) hosted two days of sessions in Miami Aug. 22 and 23, featuring Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and fellow CBC member Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). On the other hand, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a Black Republican freshman member of Congress and Tea Party favorite, condemned government initiatives on job creation and declined to support the job fair in his state.

“Make no mistake, job creation remains our number one priority,” Rep. Hastings said in a statement on the opening of the South Florida town hall. “Unfortunately, there continues to be a major racial and economic disparity that continues to go unaddressed in the broader discussion of job creation and economic recovery. That is why I am so pleased that the CBC has launched this initiative and is bringing these opportunities to South Florida to help tackle the pressing issue of unemployment and underemployment, especially in minority communities. This initiative puts boots on the ground to help people get back on their feet in these most difficult times.”

“From day one, my focus has been jobs, jobs, jobs,” Rep. Wilson added. “Unemployment in South Florida is no longer a crisis, but an epidemic. It's time to take matters into our own hands and provide real opportunities for people to get back to work.”

For his part, Rep. West insists that only the “free market” creates jobs, and he denounced CBC members such as former CBC Chairman Maxine Waters (D-CA)—who scheduled the final two-day sessions Aug. 30 and 31—as “plantation overseers” because in his view they keep people “enslaved” under government dependence.

Ironically, Rep. West's own brother Arlan West is out of work. When Arlan West called his brother seeking help finding a job, Rep. West told his brother to seek help from Rep. Waters since she was holding a job fair, according to The Examiner.com. Arlan West said he was thankful for the assistance from Rep. Waters, describing the CBC job fairs as a “prime example” of elected representatives serving their constituents. Arlan West described his elected brother's rhetoric as “unproductive.”

“As reported, African American unemployment remains extremely high at 15.9 percent, and the wealth gap between Whites and people of color is the largest it has been in decades,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “It has become clear that the time for immediate and real action to provide hard working Americans with real jobs is now.

“Our goal remains the same,” Rep. Cleaver continued. “We want to get 10,000 people hired at our jobs events. Washington has finally ended the see-saw game on the debt ceiling and now we can finally focus on real people who are suffering.”

Local job officials agreed. “I believe the recent lack of leadership in Washington is a contributing factor to the overall lack of confidence in the economy,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told ABC News. “Due to this lack of confidence, we are seeing a business community that is hesitant to make further investments in the economy.”

“The Congressional Black Caucus decided to take matters into their own hands,” Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Rep. Wilson told ABC News. “They are tired of Republicans' inaction that prevents bills from moving forward. This is a real tangible opportunity for our constituents.”

President Obama, who spent 10 days in late August vacationing at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, said he will renew his focus on job creation during a speech slated for early September.

“When Congress gets back in September, my basic argument to them is this: We should not have to choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs and growth,” Obama said on Aug. 17, before his vacation began, at a stop in Atkinson, Ill., as he concluded a Midwest bus “listening tour.”

In a preview of Obama's speech, former White House advisor, now Obama 2012 re-election campaign strategist David Axelrod said the president will call on Congress to pass a number of policies aimed at stimulating the economy, including an extension of the payroll tax.

“In the short term, we need to do some things to accelerate the economy,” Axelrod said on CNN's “State of the Union” Aug. 21. “In the long run, we also ought to agree that we need to deal with our debt issue.

“Some will be new. Some we have already talked about,” Axelrod said. “Some he has been asking Congress to do for some time. The only thing that keeps us from acting on many of these things is pure politics.”

T.I. Back in Federal Prison… Again

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Two days after his release, rapper T.I., who was born Clifford Harris, finds himself back in federal prison in a controversy over using a luxury tour bus to report to a halfway house.

“We are awaiting the opportunity to quickly resolve whatever the issue may be that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has with T.I.'s method of transportation, bus, from Arkansas to Atlanta, so that T.I. can return to the halfway house to complete the remaining days of his sentence,” the Grammy-winning rapper’s attorney, Steve Sadow, told E! News.

Therefore, instead of temporarily residing in a halfway house, T.I. is now in prison in Atlanta. Officials told the AFRO they would only confirm T.I.’s whereabouts and his release date but would not comment on why he was sent to prison.

Apparently, the rapper failed to comply with the rules, according to TMZ.com. Prison officials told the website that an incarcerated prisoner in a low or medium security facility is allowed to travel in a private, unescorted mode of transportation. But T.I. told the authorities he would be traveling in a van, not a tour bus with an entourage.

Prison officials also barred the use of video cameras at the facility.

Production had already begun on a VH1 reality series set to follow the rapper. Cameras were already shooting before he was placed back into federal custody.

The rapper appeared to be pleased with his release on drug charges stemming from a September 2010 traffic stop in Los Angeles where he and his wife were found with ecstasy. That charge was a violation of probation for an earlier conviction on weapons charges. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

“The storm is over & da sun back out. IT'S OUR TIME TO SHINE SHAWTY!!!!!” he said via his Twitter account after his release. “Welcome to the beginning of our Happy Ending!!!!”

T.I.’s scheduled release date from the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta is Sept. 29.

Soul Singer Claims Jay-Z, Kanye West Illegally Sampled 1967 Track

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

(NNPA) As Jay-Z and Kanye West celebrate the recent success of their album “Watch the Throne,” the rappers may face a lawsuit from a Chicago soul singer who claims the pair illegally sampled one of his songs from the 1960s.

According to the music, film and photography preservation company The Numero Uno Group, singer Syl Johnson said the hip-hop duo illegally sampled his 1967 track “Different Strokes” for their song “The Joy.”

The latter track was originally intended to appear on the deluxe edition of West’s 2010 album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” but was used instead as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of “Watch The Throne.” West is credited as the producer of the track, though it was in fact produced by Pete Rock.

The Numero Uno Group said the sample wasn't cleared in time for West's album last year, and they were erroneously named as the publishers of the song on this year's album.

The company recently Tweeted, “Hey [Kanye West and Jay-Z], thanks for illegally sampling Syl Johnson on “The Joy” and then crediting us(?). Have your lawyers call our lawyer.” Their post on the situation has since been removed.

Johnson voiced his frustrations to Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ, saying that West should have approached him first before using the song because they know each other personally. The rapper collaborated with Johnson's daughter Syleena for his 2004 hit “All Falls Down.”

“He knows my daughter—they came up together,” he told WMAQ. “Mr. West should have come to me. I don't like going through this. I’m not dying to get on TV or go to court.”

According to MTV, “Watch the Throne” has already gone gold with more than 600,000 copies sold to date. Johnson is seeking compensation through a hearing or settlement.

Syl Johnson's Different Strokes: ">www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AizWO6UNok

Kanye West's The Joy: ">www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgzoqagw_E0

Woman Fighting for Equality Among Minorities in the Workplace

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By George Barnette, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

(NNPA) A local woman is working hard to get more equality in federal jobs as she believes the government is closing doors on opportunities for minorities. “I felt that Black federal employees that were brave enough to take on the injustices that were happening to us needed to have an advocacy group to actually expose what’s going on in the federal government,” said Tanya Ward Jordan, founder of the Coalition for Change (C4C).

Jordan founded C4C in 2009 after taking part in a class action suit against the U.S. Department of Commerce that was settled out of court. Jordan says part of the problem lies in the sheer number of opportunities not given to minorities.

According to a 2006 report by the Office of Personnel Management, the percentage of Blacks and Latinos in high-grade positions decreases the higher you get. GS-08 held the highest percentage of Black and Latino workers at 26.7 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. However, for whites, that number increases the higher up the scale one goes. Whites garnered 81.2 percent of all GS-15 positions, the highest obtainable for civilian employees, distancing its next closest minority group by 74 percent.

"When it’s time to put people in positions, people pick family and friends,” Jordan said. "When you talk about favoritism in favor of White people at the exclusion of Black people, then a lot of times that translates to racism because a lot of times we’re being blocked out.”

Despite the numbers and Jordan’s assertions, federal law prohibits that practice unless it is "job related and consistent with business necessity."

Part of the issue, Jordan says, is the way complaints have to be filed. In order for federal employees to start the EEO complaint process, they have to first file a complaint with an EEO counselor within 45 days of when they think they’ve been discriminated against. If the dispute isn’t settled, then the EEO counselor must inform employees how to file a formal complaint, which the aggrieved then have 15 days to file.

Federal agencies have 180 days to investigate, which will result in a final decision or a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge. Employees must go through the entire administrative process before filing a lawsuit.

Jordan says for those who have been terminated or were denied employment, the process can become expensive to complete. “These poor employees have to get legal counsel and once you’re fired, you most likely don’t have much money,” she said. “They have to take out loans and that type of stuff. We try to provide information and support the best we can with how they can best help themselves.”

Jordan plans to push forward and says that her work is bigger than just equality in the federal government. She says it’s about Black people everywhere. “Internal discrimination on the inside spills over into our public programs and services and how they administer these services to our Black community and other minorities,” she said. “The federal government is over everything we do.”

August 27 Marches Cancelled in D.C. Due to Hurricane Irene

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

(NNPA) WASHINGTON -- The impending arrival of Hurricane Irene has caused the cancellations of two major marches that were to take place Sat., Aug. 27 in D.C.

Just prior to calling a state of emergency for the city, Mayor Vincent C. Gray's office announced cancellation of both the D.C. statehood rally and a march for jobs that was to be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network.

Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, announced that because of the hurricane, the dedication of the King Memorial would be postponed until September or October.

The hurricane, which is expected to bring severe storms to the D.C. area, has also threatened travel along the eastern seaboard.

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