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2011: More Trying Times for Black America

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

(FinalCall.com) - For Black people 2011 reinforced the glaring reality that no matter who occupies the White House, overall conditions of the masses in the Black community do not change and in many cases, it worsens. Even for the Black family living in the White House, 2011 further revealed even they were not immune to being disrespected, stereotyped and attacked.

For events and news stories affecting Black men, women and children, this year bears witness to the insight given by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that no man or woman can rise above the condition of his or her people.

What lessons did Black America learn this past year and what did 2011 say about the state of Black America? The economy, health, crime, international events and politics took center stage this year yielding mixed results according to a cross section of Black activists, analysts, leaders and commentators.

“Things have not gotten better for Black folks,” Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University finance professor, author and creator of yourblackworld.com told The Final Call.

“I think that our spirit of independence grows every year. We are learning how to create our own jobs or at least we now understand that’s going to be the solution and that really looking for state or government sanctioned solutions is only going to take us so far,” says Dr. Watkins.

“You can’t do a whole lot better than having a Black president and we found that our suffering actually increased under a Black president relative to what it was before,” adds Dr. Watkins.

Despite the grim statistics, Dr. Watkins says 2011 was overall a good year for Black people because “we are always looking forward because we are survivors.”

Dr. Watkins says Blacks have become increasingly more astute politically since the election of President Obama but channeling it into effective organizing has still fallen short.

“You really can’t think of too many scenarios this year in which we actually organized toward a purpose and achieved our goals. You saw some of it happen maybe with the Troy Davis execution but that really wasn’t as much of a Black thing as it was a liberal kind of human rights sort of thing that happened to correlate with African American interests,” says Dr. Watkins.

“I think that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to organizing effectively but I think in terms of learning how to think for ourselves, I think we made a lot of progress,” he adds.

The Black community faced “everything” in 2011 says veteran, award-winning journalist Bev Smith. “We faced every kind of critical problem a community can face, from illness to crime. But I think it would be the combination of crime and unemployment that are the two issues that have not thoroughly in my opinion been addressed by leadership across this country if there is any leadership,” Ms. Smith told The Final Call.

She was hard pressed to find positive highlights for the year. “You can always look for positive things in our African American community. You can look for young people that are graduating from high school and going to college. You can look for the three out of five young African American men who are not going to jail who are not committing crimes. But the impact of the others who are, is so severe on the community as a whole that there is no portion of our community that isn’t affected by it,” says Ms. Smith.

One of the factors blamed for the disproportionate numbers of Black teens and young adults caught up in crime was unemployment which hit this group particularly hard. In some parts of the county, the unemployment rate for Black teens was anywhere from 40 to 50 percent.

For Black adults the picture was not much brighter with the average unemployment rate hovering at or above 16 percent most of the year well above the national average for Whites.

“Our Black community has been suffering from unemployment from the first four years of the Bush administration. Now the country’s talking about unemployment but our numbers are triple those of the average person in America. So, was there anything good to report? I’m usually optimistic and I usually can say there’s something good coming out of everything but I don’t see it in 2011. I see us more disenfranchised, disorganized, not committed to each other, more selfish than ever before,” says Ms. Smith.

As President Barack H. Obama enters campaign mode for the upcoming 2012 presidential election, the euphoria and optimism felt by the many voters that helped sweep him into office three years ago has turned to skepticism and frustration. For Blacks, 95 percent who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 this year left little to smile about.

The median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households and the average median hourly wage for Black men working full-time is $14.90 per hour compared to $20.84 for White men, according to reports released this year.

Individual families were not the only ones experiencing a rocky year. Even the nation’s oldest civil rights organization was faced with challenges. Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy for the NAACP, says the good thing about 2011 is that Black people were able to hold on.

“After a slew of victories from 2009 through the end of 2010, 2011 began on a really challenging note…this year was tough,” admits Mr. Shelton, referring to trying to move aspects of the NAACP agenda through Congress and to the president for signature.

The 2010 mid-term elections saw the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives change from Democrat to Republican.

“The toughness was we’ve lost a good friend as the speaker of the House that helped us move our agenda through. And unfortunately the person that replaced her was someone that was strongly opposed to much of the agenda that we were trying to continue to get through as well as many of the victories that we had accomplished in the 111th Congress which ran from 2009 to 2010,” Mr. Shelton told The Final Call.

There was an immediate move in January 2011 in the House to try and rollback the Affordable Care Act that afforded millions of Americans health care coverage, says Mr. Shelton. The move to repeal the act was halted in the Senate so it is still in effect. “It’s still there and now we’re working to get more African Americans registered to be covered by the Affordable Care Act. When we started this fight, 47 million Americans had no health care insurance and over 30 percent of those are African Americans,” notes Mr. Shelton.

The fight keeping health insurance for millions of uninsured was one of many battles the NAACP waged during the year.

International events also impacted Blacks in America, according to Chicago-based activist Pat Hill. The Obama administration’s military intervention in Africa, especially Libya was of great concern to many activists and the killing of Col. Muammar Gadhafi was pivotal, she says.

“His (President Obama’s) wars have been focused on the continent and so I think unwittingly we don’t realize the effect it’s having…the economic situation is really a bi-product of the wars because war is very expensive,” argues the long-time activist and former Chicago police officer.

Ms. Hill says prices for everyday items have increased and much needed services have been cut, impacting the Black community. “The money to pay for the wars has come from somewhere else and you can look at the cost of living just all around, how expensive everything has gotten and it is a direct impact of the wars,” says Ms. Hill.

“People act as though this crisis is happening in a vacuum. There’s a cost for everything. It’s almost like we’ve accepted being in a war but not understanding the economic impact that it has on a society, on a country, on a people. And so if that were eliminated, you would be surprised as the money flows and the jobs come back,” she says.

While some pundits still contend having a Black family as the first family of the United States the past three years points to a “post-racial” society, 2011 ends pointing out even the president and first lady cannot escape the racial animus that continues to permeate the very fabric of the world’s most powerful nation.

Congressman Jim Stensenbrener (R-Wisc.) was recently overheard making inappropriate remarks about First Lady Michelle Obama’s backside, harkening back to the days when White slavemasters commented on the physique of Black slaves as they stood on the auction block prior to being sold off.

In a separate incident, former Tea Party political candidate Jules Manson was visited by the Secret Service after reportedly calling for the assassination of President Obama and his “monkey children” on his Facebook page as reported by the New York Daily News.

Incidents like these show racism is still a virus in society even in 2011 Rev. Marcia L. Dyson told The Final Call. “I think we haven’t come as far in race relationships. Electing a Black man for president is about choosing one Black man but it has nothing to do with how they really may think about African Americans in general,” says the ordained minister and lecturer.

“Obviously if a non-Black said it, they still have a fixation on the Black female body, something that they can no longer have as chattel. So since you can’t lock it down in iron you can try to throw straws at it. But Michelle Obama is a fierce Black woman from the South Side of Chicago and has more grace to even be insulted by the ignorance of a few in America,” says Rev. Dyson when asked about the comments made by Rep. Stensenbrener.

Individual organizations are working to improve the conditions in the Black community but the organizational skills and unity demonstrated by these same groups working together is lacking and has to change next year, says Ms. Smith.

“There are people individually working themselves crazy trying to help. One of is course Ben Jealous from the NAACP, the other one is Mark Morial from the Urban League. They’re all working but they’re all working within their own group…they’re working to get things done but unfortunately we do not have the grassroots organization that we had in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and into the middle of the ’90s, we just don’t have it,” says Ms. Smith who challenged churches and other religious organizations to become more involved in collectively solving problems.

Ms. Smith added that the critical analysis of issues raised by Minister Louis Farrakhan at the 2011 anniversary of the Million Man March in Philadelphia is needed. “Are the leaders more concerned with their own agenda than they are with the agenda of the African American community? I don’t know. The community has to answer that question. My answer is I think we’ve become very selfish as Black leaders and we don’t have the commitment of the leaders in the past,” says Ms. Smith.

In his address, Min. Farrakhan reminded the audience that the success of the historic Million Man March in 1995 was because of courageous religious and political leaders and various groups that rose above their differences to make it a success. The Minister said the same level of unity and commitment among Black leadership is required today.

“What is our call today? It is for us to rise above the things that we differ about, because the future of our people depends upon our ability to mobilize for action to bring about the results that we’ve been begging others for, which will never come to us! We have got to do it ourselves! And if we don’t have the mind and the spirit to bring ourselves out of the condition that we are in, then we deserve whatever chastisement Allah will bring upon us for our refusal to accept our responsibility,” Min. Farrakhan told the audience Oct. 9.

Rev. Dyson says as Black Americans head into another year, the upcoming 2012 presidential election is time to once again become actively engaged in the workings of the political process.

“I hope that we become better citizens in 2012 and not so much choose a man or a woman but to choose the issues into which we will fight for to make sure once the elected official is in office that the things that are relevant to us, that we let them know who is the boss,” says Dr. Dyson.

Masked Ball Raises $1.2 Million for United Negro College Fund

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By Kenya King, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World –

It’s an emergency, but there is no need to dial 911 – call the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). For dozens of rising and graduating seniors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the idea of not matriculating in the final coursework for their academic degree brings a wave of unnerving emotions and uncertainty about their future.

Now those trepidations are being diminished through the UNCF’s Campaign for Emergency Student Aid (CESA). CESA funds are special monies set aside for emergency student financial aid above and beyond the general scholarship resources that go to the UNCF. At the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball held on Dec. 17 at Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the UNCF raised thousands of dollars targeted toward meeting the needs of students requiring urgent financial assistance in their final semesters of study.

“Every year the Mayor’s Masked Ball brings together Atlanta leaders who believe in the power of education to help the next generation of doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, business executives and entrepreneurs get the education they need to compete in a global economy,” said Michael Lomax, UNCF president and CEO.

Overall the Mayor’s Masked Ball raised $1.2 million that will benefit Atlanta University Schools, including Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse and the Interdenominational Theological Center. Out of the $1.2 million, $100,000 will go toward the emergency fund. Macy’s and UPS both contributed $50,000 to CESA.

The UNCF has set to raise $5 million for the CESA program, which launched in 2009. Other donors to the UNCF general scholarship fund were Anheuser-Busch Inc., $75,000; Coca-Cola, $50,000; and Delta Air Lines, $50,000.

Bill Hawthorne, Macy’s chief diversity officer, said that Macy’s has supported the UNCF for nearly 10 years, and that giving back is part of Macy’s fundamental values and responsibilities as a successful corporation. The scholarship funds Macy’s contributed will go to the emergency fund for Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Spelman students.

“We had the research conducted … with the three schools and determined that the economy was having a harmful effect on the ability of a number of the students who are juniors and seniors who don’t have the funds necessary to pay the tuition in order to complete their degree. We got a ballpark of approximately what the typical student needs in order to get through that last couple of two or three [semesters] of schooling, and we concluded that our $50,000 contribution [would go] to a scholarship fund specifically for that purpose,” said Hawthorne.

“We generally give back to a whole array of educational initiatives. In the course of that giving though, we want to make sure that we are specifically supporting those institutions that were devoted to the Black or African American or the minority, or underserved or lower- income community. The UNCF is one such organization,” said Hawthorne.

Once again, this year’s Mayor’s Masked Ball proved to be Atlanta’s premiere holiday fundraising gala with participation among Atlanta’s most notable civic leaders and local celebrities. R&B crooner-superstar Keith Sweat entertained the 1,200 guests who attended, as well as newcomer and “America’s Got Talent” finalist, Xavier D. Lewis, who sang “Give Back” in a special musical tribute. Xavier, better known as XL and the “antidote for R&B,” wrote the heartfelt song, which is also the official theme song for the National Give Back for Kids Campaign of Washington, D.C.

When UNCF Executive Vice President Maurice Jenkins heard the song, he wanted to include it in the program, according to XL’s manager Reginald Bernard. The song was a fitting prelude to the UNCF’s tribute the Mayor’s Masked Ball’s co-founder and wife of the legendary Hank Aaron, Billye Suber Aaron, who is continuing to give back with a scholarship fund in her name.

To raise funds for her new scholarship, Aaron promoted a “No Birthday Party” celebration. The invitation read, “Cancel your luxurious suite at the Ritz, you’re invited to a party that requires no glitz…and write a big check instead for my 75th birthday celebration!”

Mrs. Aaron’s 75th birthday was October 16, 2011, and thus far, she’s raised more than $300,000 to the new Billye Suber Aaron UNCF Legacy Scholarship fund. To expand further, she has set a new goal of raising $500,000 for the fund.

“I decided to contribute to the United Negro College Fund the money that would have been spent on a big birthday bash,” said Aaron. “Given the state of the economy and the impact it is having on so many of the students UNCF serves, I wanted to do something special this year to help these young men and women.”

The UNCF provides scholarships that support more than 60,000 students at more than 900 schools throughout the United States.

“Students at our Atlanta UNCF member colleges and universities, and Atlanta students attending other UNCF institutions, look to UNCF for help getting the education they need and deserve,” said Maurice E. Jenkins Jr., UNCF executive vice president.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also credits attending an HBCU for helping him become the city’s mayor. “I strongly believe HBCUs are vital in preparing the next generation of African-American business owners, attorneys, doctors, artists and civic leaders. I am a proud Howard University alumnus, and I believe I am the 59th mayor of Atlanta in large part because of my experiences there as both an undergraduate and law school student,” said Reed.

Wayne Brady Hosts 20th Annual Trumpet Awards In Atlanta January 7

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Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World –

The Trumpet Awards Foundation presents the 20th Annual Trumpet Awards, a milestone achievement, with a group of history-making honorees slated to receive the 2012 esteemed Trumpet Award.

The 26 honorees join a list of some of the most celebrated personalities in this nation and abroad. The 20th Annual Trumpet Awards black-tie ceremony, sponsored by the Trumpet Awards Foundation Inc. will be hosted by Wayne Brady, star host of CBS’s “Let’s Make A Deal.” The event will be held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 4 p.m.

The weekend of events and activities, held at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency Hotel, will include the Race Relations Symposium on Wednesday, Jan. 4, scheduled for 6 p.m.; on Thursday, Jan. 5, the Prayer Breakfast, scheduled for 8:30 a.m.; and High Tea with High Heels, scheduled for 3 p.m. An induction of eight new footprints will be placed into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. This induction ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6, at 10 a.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, National Park Service, located at 450 Auburn Ave., N.E. The program preceding the induction ceremony will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The Annual Trumpet Awards was created to celebrate and honor African-American achievers and those who support the African-American experience. The awards honor achievement in diverse fields including law, medicine, business, politics, the arts, civil rights, sports and entertainment.

The following is a complete list of the 2012 TRUMPET AWARDS honorees: Levi Watkins, Jr. – Medicine; Ambassador Nicole Avant – International; Mayor Cory Booker – Political Leadership; Mary Parker – Business; Emmitt and Pat Smith, NFL Hall-of-Fame – Humanitarian; Earth, Wind, & Fire – Lifetime Achievement; Tyrese Gibson – Pinnacle; Rev. C.L. Franklin (accepted by his daughter, Aretha Franklin) – Civil Rights; first lady Michelle Obama – President’s Award (pending); Ted Turner – Golden Trumpet; Black Hotel General Managers – Power at the Front Door.

For the 20th Anniversary, the Trumpet Awards Foundation decided to honor a group of individuals who have helped to change the face of the hotel industry at the front door.

“In the past, African Americans did not hold key positions at prominent hotels. The hotel industry has recently seen a significant change in its leadership as more African Americans move into positions of leadership. We want to bring awareness to this compelling fact,” said Xernona Clayton, founder and executive producer of the Trumpet Awards, and president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation Inc.

The “Power at the Front Door” award was created to salute Black hotel general managers including: Olivia Brown, Bryan Conyers, Larry Daniels, Michael Hopper, Adrian Hughes, Russell Miller, Erica Qualls, Michael Session, Michael Smith, Gail Smith-Howard, Michael Washington, Linda Westgate, Robert Woolridge, Erika Alexander, Lorenzo Creighton, Valerie Ferguson, and Robert Steele.

The Trumpet Awards was conceived, founded, and nurtured by Xernona Clayton, who has built the Awards and Awards Foundation into a prestigious testimonial around the world. “We have come so far since we started this project in 1993 and I am extremely obliged to those individuals who saw the vision and who have worked with us for nearly 20 years. We are most jubilant to bring this event to the world and to celebrate the achievements of those who had an impact on our community,” said Clayton.

Corporate support helps to make the production of the Trumpet Awards possible; and some of the major corporate sponsors include: The Coca-Cola Company; Wells Fargo; Anheuser-Busch; Delta Air Lines; Nordstrom; Newell Rubbermaid; Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick – GMC; Hyatt Regency Atlanta; The Home Depot; and more.

Muslim Leader Seeks Truce After Deadly Bombing by Sect in Nigeria

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) –Amidst the grieving for victims of Tuesday’s bombing of a Christmas mass by an anti-government Islamic sect, Nigerian religious and political leaders begged for calm between the country’s major religious groups which have been at odds before.

"We are Nigerians. I don't see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community," said the president’s national security advisor, Owoye Azazi.

"Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation."

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, told a press conference: "I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity,"

"It's a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."

The Islamist group Boko Haram, whose own leader and dozens of followers were massacred by the government in 2009, took credit for the Christmas attacks that killed 40 people, 35 of them at the church near Abuja.

Elsewhere in Nigeria, a massive oil slick has been making its way to the Nigerian coast, threatening local wildlife along the shore. Much of the published information about the spill – one of the largest in a decade - comes from the company itself, Royal Dutch Shell.

Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency says the spill could be three times as large as company estimates. Four months ago, the United Nations said it would take 30 years and around $1 billion for a small section of the Niger delta to recover from environmental damage caused by Shell and other companies.


Staggering Sums of Oil Money Missing in Angola, Rights Group Reports

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – Some $34 billion in oil revenues linked to Angola’s state oil company Sonangol have disappeared, according to the watchdog Human Rights Watch which is demanding an investigation from the president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The latest revelation comes the same week that Angola announced yet another huge offshore oil find and after deals were signed Tuesday with seven major oil companies to drill there.

The New York-based rights group said the missing money was identified in a new December report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which found that the government funds were spent or transferred from 2007 through 2010 without being properly documented in the budget.

It must be assumed, that the missing oil billions have been transferred into foreign investments, mainly in those of the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter Isabel dos Santos, asserted HRW.

Sonangal has been singled out since at least 2002 for losing track of billions of dollars when it “stopped channeling foreign currency receipts through the central bank as mandated by the law,” the IMF found.

"While ordinary Angolans suffered through a profound humanitarian crisis, their government oversaw the suspicious disappearance of a truly colossal sum of money," declared Arvind Ganesan, director of the New York-based group's business and human rights program.

Angola's government must account for a staggering $32 billion missing from state coffers in a country where most suffer immense poverty despite the nation's massive oil wealth, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Sonangol has over 30 subsidiaries in banking, gas, real estate, telecoms, air transport and just won rights to develop Iraq’s Najmah oilfield.

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