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Consumers' Christmas Wish: A Fully Functioning CFPB

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Despite the U.S. Senate’s recent failure to confirm Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), some lawmakers are vowing to press on. In fact, some are wondering why confirming a director should be so contentious for an agency whose sole mission is to protect American consumers.

This past July, the agency opened shop and began prioritizing efforts. Already, important partnerships have emerged in protections for military personnel and their families as well as older Americans. On the heels of resolving more than 70 percent of several thousand credit card complaints brought directly to the new agency’s attention, complaints are now being gathered on mortgage issues – including servicing, denials for modifications and foreclosures.

After only six months of existence, CFPB seems off to a great start. At a time when millions of Americans are financially challenged, it seems both ill-advised and ill-timed for 45 members of the U.S. Senate to deny consumers much-needed protections.

Following the Senate vote, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told the Los Angeles Times, “More than 40 of my colleagues chose Wall Street special interests over Main Street consumers. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Those opposing the appointment of a director actually have a problem with the agency’s mission. While the Dodd-Frank Act calls for a single director, congressional opponents insist on a commission form of leadership that would force a majority vote on every reform proposed. In the absence of a majority, the status quo would prevail. And many members of this proposed commission would be regulators with a track record of resisting reforms to bad banking practices.

Additionally, CFPB naysayers would make the agency’s budget a part of the annual congressional approval process. This specific proposal would make the fledgling agency a target of congressional whims, similar to those that diminished the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal services for the poor during the Reagan Administration. Then-President Reagan sought to eliminate the agency by proposing zero funding. If CFPB opponents are allowed to prevail, CFPB would suffer the same annual budgetary risks.

Perhaps that sense of déjà vu and lack of balance between bank and consumer interests is why the Congressional Black Caucus is fighting to allow the CFPB to operate as intended. In a recently published interview, CBC Chair and Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said, “It is extremely important that it is absolutely clear what this means for African-American families. We want a person who gets out of bed every morning with one goal in mind: protecting the consumers of the United States. We need someone to fight the good fight.”

Rep. Cleaver is not alone. Underscoring the need to preserve the CFPB and its legislative intent, President Obama promised, “Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. I intend to make sure they do, and I will veto any effort to delay, defund or dismantle the new rules we put it in place.”

It would be a wonderful holiday gift to the country for the CFPB to have a leader whose daily efforts make financial fairness a reality for all Americans. In fact – considering the unique history of African-Americans, full and undeterred regulation of suspect lending practices would go a long way towards the fairness that has been so elusive.

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

Leading African-American Decision-Maker at Toyota Being Honored

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) When the 16th Annual Urban Wheel Awards convene in Detroit during the January 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc’s group Vice President and General Manager, Fletcher V. Davidson will receive the event’s Executive of the Year Award.

“These Annual Urban Wheel Awards are our way of showing African Americans’ appreciation for those auto companies that recognize and respect their buying power," said program founder Randi Payton.

The Urban Wheels Awards started in 1996 as a feature of the African Americans on Wheels Magazine. Occurring during the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), the 2012 Urban Wheels Awards shows how the program has evolved into “the world-class show promoting diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry.”

Payton said the 2012 winners of the Urban Wheel Company of the Year Awards “are being recognized for demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in the areas of Workforce Development, Community Leadership, Minority Supplier Development, and Diversity Inclusion Leadership.”

The awardees are: Chrysler Group LLC - Workforce Development; General Motors Company - Community Leadership; Ford Motor Company - Minority Supplier Development
and Toyota Motor Corporation - Diversity Inclusion Leadership.

Payton said “We are delighted to recognize Toyota Motors for its leadership in diversity and inclusion…and impressive record leading the industry with diversity initiatives and…internal leadership and commitment.”

In fact, the people at Toyota have set a new trend in the industry and made strategic and measurable moves to reach Black buyers. A positive culture for people of color is emerging at Toyota. People at the top in Toyota are valuing Blacks as consumers, vendors and team members. Toyota has an advertising agreement with Black publishers. In 2011, Toyota was named among the Best Companies for Diversity by Black Enterprise for its achievements in supplier diversity. Founded in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda, the Toyota Motor Corporation of today appears to have, a different culture and perspective. Toyota Motor Corporation group companies are Toyota (including the Scion brand), Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino Motors, along with several "non-automotive" companies. Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. markets products and services through a network of nearly 1,500 dealers which sold more than 1.76 million vehicles in 2010. Toyota employs nearly 30,000 people in the U.S.

In his executive role at Toyota, Davidson leads a team of 2400 associates who support $3.5 billion in sales. Payton said that Davidson is being honored for “proven success in management, specifically for his strategic leadership during the 2010 recalls and 2011 earthquake and tsunami” “I am honored to receive the Executive of the Year award. This award comes as supply is improving… and we are preparing to introduce 20 new products over the next few years” said Davidson.

Toyota’s record on diversity and inclusion is a result of the leadership and commitment of its Black executives. Ed Lewis, head of Strategic Communications & Media Relations, said “At Toyota, we believe an auto company can be a vehicle for change and a key element in strengthening community needs nationwide.”

Since 1991, Toyota contributed nearly $540 million to U.S. philanthropic programs that included the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and “Push for Excellence”. Toyota’s supplier-diversity program has more than 7 percent of Tier I (direct contractor) spending going to minority-owned businesses.

Toyota has a number of African Americans in high-level decision-making positions. Jim Colon is Vice President of Product Communications. Christopher P. Reynolds is a group vice president and general counsel for the Legal Services Group. Jerome Miller is Vice President for Diversity and inclusion, and Wil James is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.

The Wheels Awards’ agenda includes honoring Washington Post automotive columnist Warren Brown with a Lifetime Achievement Award as recognition for his being one of the nation’s most influential auto writers since he started coverage of the industry in 1982. A special tribute will be made toward auto companies that made major contributions to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial by MLK Memorial CEO Harry Johnson.

William Reed is Publisher of Who’s Who in Black Corporate America and available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.

Thousands Stage Manhattan Voting Rights Demonstration

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Coalition Demonstrate Against Voting Rights Challenges

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

The assault on voting rights and voting practices drew loud and targeted protest in New York City Dec. 11 as a coalition made up of civil rights, organized labor and community advocacy organizations staged a march and rally they called the Stand for Freedom in midtown Manhattan.

The rally, attended by approximately 25,000 demonstrators, according to one estimate, marked the vanguard of a counter-assault on the drive to erode voting rights, according to its organizers who say voting rights for minorities are under siege.

The coalition initiating the march and rally included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, and the American Civil Liberties Union, the demonstrators rallied against efforts by lawmakers in 34 states to undermine voter rights and zeroed in on 14 states where such laws have been passed. They also are trying to block attacks on early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration.

“Voting rights are being challenged all across the United States," said Diane Sanders, an organizer with 1199SEIU. “People have died for the right to vote. We can't just sit by and let our rights be taken from us.”

She spoke after coalition of the various groups marched to the United Nations from the New York offices of Koch Industries, targeted by protesters as the financial spark that allegedly has helped ignite the legislative surge to roll back or inhibit voting rights.

“If successful, these laws would disenfranchise well over five million voters. That's more people than live in Manhattan, Bronx, and, I think, Staten Island put together, and that's not what democracy should be about,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"You can't accomplish anything if you're not prepared to fight," Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), wearing a hat with embroidered with "NAACP", according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Voter ID laws are nothing but reincarnated poll taxes and literacy tests, and ex-felon voting bans serve the same purpose today as when they were created in the wake of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing ex-slaves the vote — suppressing voting numbers among people of color,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous in remarks he made before the rally.

A Koch spokesman denied a company role in anti-voter rights efforts. "Koch has taken no position on the voter ID issue, which is why these groups are wrong and completely misguided in their false accusations," company spokesman Bill O'Reilly said in a statement.

Gingrich's Idea Exploits Stereotypes

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GOP hopeful wants to instill work ethic in poor children by putting them to work — as janitors

By Dwight Ott, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

Poor kids, especially in projects and inner city neighborhoods, should be hired as part-time janitors for neighborhood schools.

So was the declaration of Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich in brainstorming recently about ways to lessen unemployment and economic decline in urban areas.

Clarifying remarks he made last month in a speech at Harvard, he said redesigning child labor laws to allow 14- and-15-year-olds to work would help curb the lack of a work ethic in many poor neighborhoods. It would also allow schools to give such mid-teens part-time jobs as janitors or janitorial assistants.

Gingrich said that successful people he knows started work early by doing small jobs like babysitting and shoveling snow.

Such simple answers to complex questions have some likening Gingrich to the Grinch who stole Christmas. His comments have gained weight as he has risen in the polls in the last two weeks ahead of Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination Mitt Romney.

Speaking with the pomp and authority of a child study expert, Gingrich diagnosed the unemployment problems in inner cities as a kind of self-perpetuating cycle of lack of work leading to more lack of work and more Americans being crippled by a merry-go-round of poor work ethic.

Sizing up the problem as such, Gingrich immediately offered his own remedy for the country. His solution — put lazy and helpless inner city youth to work. It was a solution, some experts say harkened back to the days when the stereotype of welfare queens refusing husbands, was used by the Ronald Reagan campaign in 1980 to help frighten the country into ultimately implementing workfare reform as an antidote to welfare, ironically, during the Clinton Administration.

This time Gingrich has thrown his own form of dynamite into the presidential race igniting controversy and accusations against him of race baiting. Catching stiff flak, Gingrich backpedaled a bit to say he obviously was not talking about the “working poor,” but rather households where there is no work.

“They have no money. No habit of work,” the politician said.”[They have] No concept of working and nobody around them who works. ‘No concept of I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

What was left unsaid, according to critics, was that Gingrich was speaking about Black and Hispanics who, more than any other groups, fit the profile of the “very poor” inner city kids Gingrich described.

“What kind of nonsense is this?” exclaimed City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. “How dare anybody make such a suggestion. It’s ridiculous that a white candidate for president would try to put people in certain classes based on economic background saying they lack work ethic.

“I was born in public housing — Richard Allen projects. These were low-income people. But I have a brother with a Ph.D. My sister and I have master’s degrees. My oldest sister is a computer expert. We have so many exceptions of poor people. This Thursday (Dec. 15) I will be honoring the original Richard Allen Committee — a group of success stories [out of Richard Allen]. They have all given back.”

Things didn’t improve after Blackwell’s retort as the floodgates of criticism opened.

“I think there is a clear ‘dog whistle’ of racial signaling, when he talks of inner city poor,” said Daniel Cook, associate professor of Childhood Studies at Rutgers–Camden in South Jersey. “Statistically he’s referring to families and children of color.”

Charles Gallagher, chairman of the sociology department at LaSalle University, agreed, saying Gingrich was using “coded” language for Blacks and Latinos when he spoke of the “very poor,” “inner city poor” and children “in projects.”

What Gingrich also did not say outright was that if his plan to use youth as janitors in schools were adopted, it would be a matter of throwing a single brick through two windows at the same time, windows that were institutions that have long been targets of conservatives — unions as well as child labor laws.

While sidestepping labor laws, Gingrich admitted that the proposal would allow the reduction of unionized school janitorial unions and their members.

“Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school,” said the former U.S. Speaker of House of Representatives.

Gingrich has drawn criticism in the past from some Democrats and pundits for contending that U.S. child labor laws are “truly stupid” and should be “rejiggered” to allow such things as children janitors in schools.

There are Blacks who agree with Gingrich’s prescription. Ward Connerly, political activist, businessman and former University of California Regent, based in California, is one of them. Connerly’s postion is not surprising since, in the past, he has opposed racial preferences and quotas.

“His [Gingrich’s] observations are quite valid ...,” said Connerly last week. “America is in decline not just budget-wise … but the infrastructure [of our families and our culture] is deteriorating. There are enormous problems in the urban core. There needs to be the right kind of tutelage to lead productive lives.”

He said Gingrich’s suggestion that “really poor” kids lack work ethic and could profit from school janitorial jobs may help remediate the situation. According to Connerly, some young Blacks feel that doing the things required to hold down a mainstream job is “acting white.” “This is a problem with a lot of our kids,” said Connerly. “But not just our kids [lack work ethics]. White kids too. These kids are low income and don’t see parents going to work or coming home from the job. … There is a need for love here.”

Critics like Al Sharpton, who recently did a tour through inner city schools with Gingrich [at the behest of President Obama in an effort to heighten awareness of the problem plagued education system] agreed. He said Gingrich’s words sounded suspiciously similar to the coded language used to describe felon Willie Horton during the campaign of George H.W. Bush for presidency. He said it was also similar to the use of the “welfare queen” image by Reagan and Richard Nixon in their presidential campaigns. Now the target seems to be children as potential scapegoats for the current economic situation, he said.

“This is where we are getting into this cheap kind of race-baiting kind of poor,” Sharpton said in a radio interview. “[He is talking about] criminal kind of behavior and we need to call it out.” “He knows better,” said Sharpton.

He said this should be especially so following Gingrich’s inner city tour that included Philadelphia. “He knows these kids have parents that work and that are not making money illegally.”

According to Charles Gallagher, in the sociology department at LaSalle, “Gingrich is way off with this. He is trying to score points with white Americans that Black culture is a culture of poverty that the children learn about helplessness and laziness because their parents don’t work. This is amazing coming from a man who is supposed to know history.

“It’s not laziness,” said Gallagher, “but the lack of opportunity. The structure no longer exists for jobs based on manual labor [or entry level skills]. It’s disingenuous looking at 11- and 12-year-olds and say ‘Get a job.’”

Gallagher said Gingrich failed to mention discrimination, “which is very much a part of this.” Adds Gallagher: “He doesn’t look at the structural conditions that create poverty. It’s unbelievable that he would stoop so low as to blame 14- and 15-year-olds for the recession we’re in.”

Daniel Cook, a sociologist at Rutgers-Camden said he disagreed with Gingrich’s argument that having or not having parents was key to youths having work ethics.

“Anybody who knows anything about children from less economically advantaged backgrounds, know they live in situations [in which they have to practically raise their brothers and sisters and provide unpaid care]. They are at different ages, and they have to be incredibly responsible, helping siblings with clothing, eating, getting to school. It’s not paid labor but it’s an incredible amount of responsibility. The picture he paints because of class divisions is incorrect.”

LaSalle University’s Gallagher said the focus of Gingrich’s argument — tying the minority families to their economic level — is reminiscent of the work of Daniel Patrick Moynihan who blamed young Black women who got pregnant without looking for marriage as a reason for the ills in Black upward mobility.

Some have said that Gingrich’s comments are another effort to pin Black and Hispanic economic levels on their own family backgrounds.

Regardless, some local political leaders agree with City Councilman Curtis Jones, who argued recently that Gingrich’s comments would be helpful to President Obama campaign.

“It’s the best thing that could have happened,” said Jones. “With Gingrich running it makes us see that whatever Obama did wrong, Gingrich proves that it could be a lot worse."

After 30 Years of Appeals, Prosecutors Rule Out Execution of Abu-Jamal

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By Herb Boyd and Nayaba Arinde, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Almost 30 years after being convicted of shooting a police officer and spending nearly an equal number of years on death row, Mumia Abu-Jamal, 57, is free of the death sentence but still might spend the rest of his life behind bars. Hearing the news on Wednesday afternoon though, his supporters immediately felt relief but instantly turned their focus to continuing the fight to get a new trial for the former journalist and Black Panther activist.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, prosecutors, with the support of the Philadelphia's police commissioner and the widow of the slain officer Daniel Faulkner announced they would no longer pursue the death penalty in the case.

"There has never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs."

There are thousands in America and around the world who strongly disagree with Williams, who is Black, and they have voiced their support for Abu-Jamal, many of them calling not only for the end of the death penalty but for a new trial.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of Abu-Jamal's many worldwide supporters demanding his release. In a statement (see Opinion), he said, "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life-yet another form of death sentence. Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released. I therefore join the call, and ask others to follow, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights and justice: Drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released, with full time served."

Tutu decried the fact that Abu-Jamal's nearly 30 years as a Pennsylvania death row prisoner were equivalent to "torture...because he is innocent, justice for Mumia will not be served by life imprisonment, but by his release from prison."

"This is only a partial victory," summed up attorney Roger Wareham of the December 12th Movement's International Secretariat. "At least he has been removed from death row. But the case is not over...Mumia Abu-Jamal did not do the crime, so we will keep fighting to get the conviction overturned."

An international industry has been built around freeing Abu-Jamal over the last three decades. Few have been more vigilant in this quest for freedom and justice than Pam Africa, chairwoman of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On many occasions, at rallies, marches and conferences, she has vociferously cried out on his behalf. "We're calling on the attorney general," she said in a recent speech. "And when I say we, I'm saying there are several groups and organizations that are spearheaded by the New York [Free Mumia Abu-Jamal] Coalition that is calling on the attorney general, because what we're pointing out is that Mumia cannot get any fairness whatsoever.

"Mumia cannot get any fairness in this court system, so we're calling on the U.S. attorney general [Eric Holder] to do a civil rights investigation into this case, because Mumia's civil rights, from the beginning to the end, and our civil rights as citizens of this United States who have pointed out the evidence very clearly [are threatened]. That, nobody can get around. Mumia is innocent. He is factually innocent," Africa asserted.

"We know with this mountain of evidence that our freedom fighter Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent of the crime, and he has remained behind bars for 30 years simply because of his political stance, which is to free the minds and hearts of Black people," said Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron, a fellow original Black Panther. "We celebrate the fact that he will be off death row, but this has been a long time coming; and now we continue the fight to bring him home and address this heinous injustice."

Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. A year later he was sentenced to death.

For more than a quarter of a century, his plight has garnered international attention with protest rallies organized from San Francisco to Paris. There's even a street named after him in France.

Celebrities such as Danny Glover, Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins have signed petitions and appeared on panels denouncing the death penalty and calling for a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Several years ago, there was even a confession from a man who said he was responsible for killing the officer and that Abu-Jamal was innocent. His story corroborated one that Abu-Jamal has maintained since his arrest. He said he witnessed his brother scuffling with a police officer early that morning and ran towards the scene. Subsequently, Abu-Jamal was found wounded by a bullet from Faulkner's gun. Meanwhile, Faulkner was found dead nearby. According to the police, the revolver found near the scene with five spent shells was registered to Abu-Jamal.

In his statement, Tutu pointed out that there are "thousands of other cases in Philadelphia in which the prosecutor, the judge and the police conspired to obtain a conviction." He also brings up the concealed existence of a fourth person at the crime scene, Kenneth Freeman.

"Within hours of the shooting, a driver's license application found in Officer Faulkner's shirt pocket led the police to Freeman, who was identified as the shooter in a lineup," said the archbishop. "Yet, Freeman's presence at the scene was concealed, first by Inspector Alfonso Giordano and later at trial by prosecutor Joe McGill. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted that withholding evidence of innocence by the prosecutor warrants the overturning of a conviction."

Tutu surmised that the "police investigation that led to Abu-Jamal's conviction was also riddled with corruption and tampering with evidence."

In October, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. It was then left to the prosecution whether they wanted to pursue the death penalty or resort to a life sentence.

Abu-Jamal has not been silent about his predicament and his broadcasts and writings have earned him a wide audience, and the publication of his latest book, "Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. USA" (City Lights), is sure to increase his following threefold. Readers interested in learning more about his life and writings will be vastly rewarded by getting a copy of "We Want Freedom" (South End Press, 2004). In addition, his review of Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" will appear soon in a collection of essays and reviews, "By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X, Real, Not Reinvented," edited by Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga and Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press, 2012).

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