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Ending War on Drugs, Unemployment Key to Stopping Violence in Black Communities

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

Ending the “War on Drugs” and unemployment are the keys to stopping the violence in Black communities throughout the country, speakers said at the “Reducing Youth Violence; Models for Success” symposium.

Psychiatrists, social workers, artists, ex-gang members, physicians and researchers from across the country brought their expertise to the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild recently to share their experiences about what works in the struggle to reduce youth violence.

It is fitting they came to Manchester, said Manchester Bidwell Corp. CEO Bill Strickland in his welcoming remarks, because in his experience the center itself is one of the things that works.

“This is our vision of what a school looks like, and we built it to change the way people see themselves,” he said. “In 28 years, we’ve had no police calls, no drugs, no violence. What I discovered is if you build a world-class environment, you get world-class people. You build prisons, you get prisoners.”

After thanking the sponsors and partners that made the symposium possible, Dr. Howard Foster introduced the panelists and the symposium’s opening presenter Ralph Bangs, associate director of the Center for Race and Social Problems, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bangs address, an “Overview of Violence in Pittsburgh and Projects to Reduce it,” summarized data on the city’s violent crime, victims and perpetrators, as well as the factors behind the violence.

Two of the primary drivers for the high incidence of violence, particularly homicide, which in Pittsburgh is primarily Black-on-Black crime, are lack of access to employment and a welfare policy that excludes males.

As for the unemployment, Bangs said, while there is still racial discrimination, the bulk can be attributed to low education levels, low incidence of custodial parents, and lack of work skills.

“All of this leads to drug dealing—which requires guns,” said Bangs. “In addition to the homicides, we average about 500 shootings each year in Pittsburgh.”

Another causal factor Bangs noted from his research is poor environments for youth both at home—exemplified by poor parenting skills, lack of monitoring and cognitive stimulation, harsh and inconsistent discipline, and at school—where ineffective responses to these and their manifested language and learning problems lead to “kids on the street with no skills and bad attitudes.”

Bangs recommended sweeping changes in social, educational and criminal justice areas to address what he said is a systemic problem. One such change would be to include middle-class students in educational programs so children with poor study and social skills actually have peers from whom they can learn those skills—change the peer response. He also recommended more community-wide social and educational intervention for parents to improve their skills.

“The Homewood Children’s Village, based on the successful Harlem program is a hopeful sign,” he said. “But there are limits to community schooling—because it requires a healthy community.”

Bangs also noted the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program as a positive sign that appears to be working, but said its scope should be expanded to reach disadvantaged youth.

Bangs biggest recommendation, echoed by several panelists, was to end the “War on Drugs,” which has poured billions down the drain and achieved nothing. Taking the criminal, monetary incentive of the illegal drug trade away would eliminate nearly all community violence, and the destruction of families via incarceration.

“We need more treatment and less jail,” he said. “Stop decimating Black families in urban areas.”

Finally, Bangs said the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime has to be made to work. The program is designed to stop homicides. Just two days earlier a report he had done for the city was leaked to a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bangs would not discuss the report, as it is proprietary, but he did say the portions highlighted in the press were accurate.

As reported, the draft report said the city deviated from the model and PIRC is flawed in both design and execution. Its narrow focus on “gangs” misses other violent groups, among them, parolees.

The police response—which is supposed to round up everyone in a group associated with the person suspected of a killing has been, the report said, too broad, and indistinguishable from standard “saturation raids.”

'Extremist Group' Attacks Nigerian Police Headquarters In Sign of Growing Threat

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The militant Islamic group Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for a bombing last week at police headquarters in the capital Abuja, has struck again outside its base in the Northeast, leading to concerns that the group is becoming a nationwide security threat.

Recent attacks suggest the group is increasing the sophistication of its attacks, sometimes coordinating multiple strikes at once. At least five policemen have been listed as killed in the attacks.

Boko Haram has threatened to stage attacks throughout the North and throughout the country, in an effort to end corruption, overthrow the state, and implement Islamic law.

In a handwritten statement, the group said "Very soon, we will wage jihad...We want to make it known that our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable."

In 2009, hundreds of Boko Haram supporters, including the group's leader Mohammed Yusuf, were killed after they attacked police stations in Maiduguri and other northern towns.

“If the ethnic militias defined the Obasanjo years, and the Niger delta militants the Yar'Adua years, Goodluck Jonathan had better realize that Boko Haram is his own cross. And no, good luck will not make it a lighter burden,” wrote Tolu Ogunlesi in the newspaper Next. (President) Jonathan needs to take charge early on. Whether he likes it or not there is a "war" on his hands, and a very unconventional one at that,” he wrote.

First Lady, Daughters Visit Mandela But Not President Zuma During Africa Tour

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

First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her daughters and her mother, visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and was given a tour by Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, of an exhibit chronicling the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island.

After the tour, the Obamas went to the official residence of Mandela, who welcomed her entire family, including a niece and nephew travelling with them.

Mandela, who turns 93 next month, has received few guests since January when he was admitted to hospital with an acute respiratory infection.

Mrs. Obama met briefly with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, one of President Jacob Zuma's three wives, and a group of about 100 invitees in Pretoria, but she not get a meeting with the President.

South African officials insisted that Zuma was simply busy – but in fact the visit coincides with a cooling in relations between South Africa and the U.S. Last week, President Zuma issued a sharp riposte to an appeal to African leaders by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help remove Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

"We strongly believe that the (U.N. Security Council) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation," Zuma told parliament the day after Clinton's speech.

Professor Chris Landsberg, head of the University of Johannesburg’s politics department, said even if it was not a snub, it was a “missed opportunity”.

“There is no doubt there’s been some irritation on both sides over Libya,” he said. “It might perhaps have been a chance for Mrs Obama to pass some direct messages from her husband, clarify the position and ease some tensions.”

Disasters Damage American Psyche as Natural Disasters Plagues the Country

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

“O people, keep your duty to your Lord; surely the Shock of the Hour is a grievous thing. The day you see it, every woman giving suck will forget her suckling and every pregnant one will lay down her burden, and thou wilt see men as drunken, yet they will not be drunken, but the chastisement of Allah will be severe.” —Holy Qur'an, Chapter 22, Verse 2

(FinalCall.com) - Severe natural disasters have been curtailing America on all sides and as volunteer workers scramble to help survivors pick up the pieces to lives and property swept away in tornados, snowstorms and hurricanes, they are working to help people maintain their mental health, heavily tested by the unprecedented events.

Millions of dollars in recovery efforts have been spent to help feed and shelter survivors but another key area of need is help dealing with the psychological toll disasters have taken on American citizens, according to mental and social health experts.

“In a number of cases, people are coming to the realization that they are homeless and there is a lot of doubt, feelings of despair and anger that hits one's self-worth,” especially if one's neighbors have received help and they hit road blocks, said E.C. Bell, director of Metro Counseling Center, a non-profit substance program in Jackson, Mississippi, and a member of the Association of Black Social Workers.

On June 11 Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick sought federal funding for recovery after a pair of tornados tore through parts of the state on June 1. In Arizona, weather attacks began in May via a 693-square mile raging wildfire that is now threatening New Mexico.

The latest disasters have given relief efforts little time to regroup since a snowstorm paralyzed the Midwest in January, tornados hit the South in April, and the Midwest came under attack again by tornados in May.

Survivors need trained volunteers, well-versed in community-based approaches to psychological support, disaster professionals say. Such approaches build on local resources, focus on strengthening community networks by utilizing its members knowledge, values and methods to enhance appropriate responses, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

People who have experienced natural weather disasters sometimes view themselves as victims, which fosters feelings of helplessness, a loss of self-esteem, and self-blame, despite things being out of their control, according to Bell.

Counseling is a way to help ease some of the psychological impact because most people want to talk about their situation so just being a good listener and giving them a chance to vent will help them, and whether the disaster occurred yesterday or years ago, recovery can last a lifetime, especially mentally,” Bell told The Final Call.

According to Ebony Muhammad, a certified thanatologist specializing in grief and loss, disasters leave people with few remnants of the life they had before. News visuals show families hunting for photo albums and other sentimental items that connect them to their memories because those items comfort them and help to combat the trauma. Many people self-medicate to cope, she said.

The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan have and continue to give means of preparation for disasters—first pointing to scripture where these natural disasters have taken place and are prophesied to take place.

Both have written and spoken countless times on the subject and have said to us to watch the weather, because the Four Great Judgments (rain, hail, snow, and earthquakes) are coming to us, noted Muhammad.

It's time we take their words seriously. It's a matter of life and death, she said.

The National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama, offers therapeutic services mainly to child victims of family-related or sexual trauma but has received increased calls from schools wanting to know how to help frightened children since the tornados, according to Catherine Hereford, director of development for the center.

“What we're seeing is a higher rate of children who have stronger reactions to storms, feelings of anxiety, fear and worry about the safety of themselves and others,” she said. In addition, children have shown changes in behavior like increased irritability, withdrawal, angry outbursts and aggression, increased sensitivity to sounds, loss of interest in activities and regressive behaviors, like going back to baby talk and bed wetting.

“The question of resolution to the psychological impact of natural disasters is therefore a question going beyond recovery, and unfortunately that becomes a physical phenomenon in terms of repairing buildings, roads and broken bones. We have to go beyond the question of restoration to how do we restore people's sense of spirit,” according to Dr. Wade Noble, a member of the Association of Black Psychologists' Haiti Disaster Relief Task Force.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, however, has warned that the divine chastisement and death that have entered America are harbingers of difficult times ahead. He has also warned that the place to seek refuge is with God, and in living the life that God wants lived. The Minister has stressed the need for disaster preparedness for the Black community as the intensity and scope of disasters continues to increase. He has called for widespread training and coordination of efforts in the Black community in this dangerous time.

Study: Young Males of Color Likely to End up Jobless, Imprisoned or Dead

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By George E. Curry, TheDefendersOnline.com –

Fifty-one percent of Hispanic male high school graduates ages 15-24 and 45 percent of African-American males in that category will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead, according to a study issued this week by the College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center.

“Collectively, the pathway data show that more than 51 percent of Hispanic males, 45 percent of African American males, 42 percent of Native American males and 33 percent of Asian American males ages 15-24 will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead,” concluded a report titled, “The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color: A Review of Research, Pathways and Progress.”

A companion report, “The Education Experience of Young Men of Color: Capturing the Student Voice,” was also released. Both reports were released at a news conference at Harvard on Monday and in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

The College Board report on educational experience observed, “…Men, especially minority men, lag behind their female counterparts in college access, educational attainment and employment. Minority men outpace their female counterparts only in negative post-secondary outcomes: unemployment, incarceration and death.”

In order to accomplish President Obama’s goal of the United States retaking its position as the world’s best educated nation, improvements must be made in the rate men of color enroll in and graduate from college, the report stated.

“The report seeks to identify not only what we know but also what we don’t know about men of color,” authors of the study said…It is our hope that this report will be the impetus for scholars to investigate more rigorously the issues affecting the academic performance of young men of color. We are particularly interested in research that identifies solutions to the problems, not that which identifies the problems all over again.”

A different approach would be to study successful men of color to determine what elements went into their success.

How well the problems of men of color are addressed will largely determine whether the United States will have a workforce educated enough to support knowledge-based jobs, which will directly impact the global competitiveness of the nation.

Although high school dropout rates among most racial and ethnic groups have declined over the past three decades, minority dropout rates remain disproportionately high, especially among males, the report noted.

The dropout rate for White males in 2008 was 7 percent. But the figure was 22 percent for Hispanic males, 17 percent for American Indian/Alaska Natives, 12 percent for African-Americans, 8 percent for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and 4 percent for Asians.

Dropout rates vary significantly within the ethnic group. Among Hispanics, for example, the high school dropout rate was 25.8 percent for Salvadorans but only 6 percent for Cuban males. The dropout rate was 22.2 percent for Mexicans but only 8 percent for South Americans.

Troubling statistics were also evident at the college level

As of 2008, only 30.3 percent of African-Americans ages 25 to 34 and 19.8 percent of Latinos in that age bracket had attained an associate degree or higher. By comparison, 49 percent of Whites and 70.7 percent of Asian Americans had earned at least a degree from a two-year college. In every group, women had higher graduation rates than their male counterparts.

College enrollment figures show that 25.8 percent of African-American males 18-24 were in college in 1990, slightly higher than the 24.7 percent rate for Black women. By 2008, however, not only had Black women overtaken Black men, they had done so by a comfortable margin. In 2008, 29.7 percent of Black men ages 18-24 were enrolled in college. But the figure for African-American females in that age bracket had risen to 34.2 percent.

Among Hispanic males, the college attendance rate increased from 15.4 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 2008. But the rate for Hispanic women jumped from 16.4 percent in 1990 to 28.9 percent in 2008. The Asian American/Pacific Islander male graduation rate was the only one to decrease over that period, from 59.2 percent to 53.8 percent while Asian women rose from 54.9 percent to 61.1 percent.

Native American/Alaska Native male college rates doubled, from 8.4 percent to 18.7 percent over that period. Women, who held a 12-point lead over their male counterparts in 1990, saw the gap narrowed, holding only a 24.3 percent to 18.7 percent lead by 2008.

In 2008, White males had a college enrollment figure of 35.6 percent, compared with 34.7 percent for women. But White women had surpassed their male counterpart by 2008, upping their college attendance rate to 46.9 percent, compared to 41.7 percent for men.

The report suggest a goal of ensuring that 55 percent of young Americans hold an associate degree and higher. However, that can’t be done without closing the college completion gaps that separate Whites and Asians from other groups.

The report’s figures on unemployment, incarceration and death were particularly gripping.

In 2008, more than 9.4 million 15-24-year-old high school graduates, including 5 million men (53.1 percent) and 4.4 million women (46.9 percent) were unemployed, the report said. Among males 15- to 24-years-old with a high school diploma, 46 percent of Hispanics were unemployed, 39.2 percent of Native Americans, 34.4 percent of African-Americans and 29.8 percent of Asians. Post-recession numbers are expected to be even higher.

While Hispanics and Native Americans had higher unemployment rates than Blacks, that pattern did not hold true for incarceration. More than 475,000 people aged 18 to 24 were incarcerated in 2008, with males making up 92.4 percent of that group.

Among minority males 15 to 24 with a high school diploma, 9.9 percent of African-Americans were behind bars, 5.2 percent of Hispanic men in that age group, 3.4 percent of Asians and 2.7 percent of Native Americans.

“An early death – natural or violent – is a real possibility for today’s youth,” the report stated. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, it noted, 34,887 died in 2008. Of those, 26,070 (74.7 percent) were males; 8,817 (25.3 percent) were females.

Of those who died in 2008, males made up 77.5 percent of African-Americans, 71.5 percent of Asians, 79.4 percent of Hispanics, 71 percent of Native Americans and 72.6 percent of Whites. Overall, African-Americans and Native Americans were tied at 0.3 percent of the deaths in that age group, followed by Hispanics, at 0.2 percent, and Asians, at 0.1 percent.

The authors of the report said that while there should be a concentrated effort to improve the plight of men of color, women of color also need and deserve support.

Among the report’s recommendations:

1) Policymakers must make improving outcomes for young men of color a national priority;

2) Increase community, business and school partnerships to provide mentoring and support to young men of color;

3) Reform education to ensure that all students, including young men of color, are college and career ready when they graduate from high school;

4) Improve teacher education programs and provide professional development that includes cultural- and gender-responsive training;

5) Create culturally appropriate persistence and retention programs that provide wraparound services to increase college completion for men of color and

6) Produce more research and conduct more studies that strengthen the understanding of challenges faced by males of color and provide evidence-based solutions to these challenges.

The researchers said they reached an unmistakable conclusion: “There is an educational crisis for young men or color in the United States.”

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