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West and Smiley Impact on Obama Voters: Real or Fleeting?

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Duo’s Obama Challenges Generate Black Community Protests But Some Fear Black Apathy

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Although Princeton professor Cornel West supported President Barack Obama in 2008, his recent criticism of the nation’s first Black president may be trouble for 2012. Radio personality Tavis Smiley has also joined in the Black chorus of public dissatisfaction of Obama.

It is unclear whether calling the president “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” and publicly denouncing the policies of Obama in a majority of recent interviews will hurt the Obama’s election next year. But Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Obama’s former church in Chicago, said the intellectual’s remarks could increase African Americans’ trust of Congress.

“The negative discussion Dr. West is having can only put more apathy in the hearts of African-Americans and could ultimately cause them to lose more faith in the entire political process,” Moss told Newsweek. “Where will that leave us?”

Buddies West and Smiley have teamed to launch a two-week “Poverty Tour,” which will take the duo to different cities as they encourage the president to “wake up.” The purpose of the tour is supposed to be to help America refocus on the “least among us,” according to Newsweek.

But recently citizens have started to fight back. In Detroit, when the “Call to Conscience” bus pulled up in August, a group of people met the two outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to protest.

“We will not stand silent as Smiley and West criticize the man who brought us health-care reform, one of the greatest accomplishments for the poor in this country’s history,” a spokesperson for Detroiters for Better Government told Newsweek.

The West and Smiley approach may or may not have an impact on Black voters. Obama’s approval rate is slowly dwindling. In 2008, 96 percent of African Americans voted for Obama. In March, Black Entertainment Television (BET) conducted a poll, where 85 percent of people supported the president. But in a recent Washington Post/CBS poll, African American support dropped sharply—from 77 percent in October 2010 to nearly half of that this month, according to Newsweek.

Steve Harvey disagreed with the tour and said Smiley should let go of the grudge he had when Obama did not make it to his town hall meeting.

“You don't have any real basis behind your dislike for this man...you keep masking it saying it's not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?” Steve Harvey said, according to the St. Louis American.

He continued: “Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your [expletive]? I ain't got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States. We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis [expletive] for three days?”

New Initiative to Defuse Ethnic Conflict in Kenya Before Polls

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The chair of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission has launched a four month series of conferences countrywide in an effort to curb conflicts related to ethnicity and race before next year’s polls.

NCIC chair Mzalendo Kibunjia said the sessions were designed to avoid the re-occurrence of post-election violence in the country.

Marginalization of some communities, bad governance, unequal distribution of resources, discrimination and misappropriation of public resources were the major issues to be addressed during the exercise, he said.

University of Nairobi Prof. Vincent Simiyu traced the creation of epithets fuelling negative ethnicity to the colonial state, which did not disappear even after independence. He noted there was still not a government-printed version of the new constitution in Kiswahili, Kenya’s national language spoken by 100% of the population.

Meanwhile, a conference on the question of reparations for victims of past violations was begun last month in Nairobi. It was convened by the International Center for Transitional Justice and a German group. The “Study of the Reparative Demands of Kenyan Victims of Human Rights Violations” has been posted on the group’s website at http://ictj.org

Rich African Nations sit on the Sidelines as Somalis Starve

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Only four African nations have contributed emergency funds for drought-stricken Somalia, and the amounts donated have been pitifully small, according to the British aid agency Oxfam.

Despite the many oil-rich countries around the continent, only South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Sudan have stepped up to the plate, said Irungu Houghton of Oxfam.

The African Union initially announced a contribution of around $500,000 as did Namibia. South Africa also announced an initial contribution of more than $150,000. But Oxfam’s Anne Mitaru called such contributions “unacceptable.”

“When you look at the South African economy, one of the largest, actually the biggest economy on the continent, $150,000 is a poor show," said Mitaru. “African governments may not have the resources to entirely meet the funding gap,” said Houghton, “but they must make a decent contribution and show the true meaning of African solutions to African problems.”

The newly-organized Africans Act 4 Africa, known as AA4A, also criticized the continent for not pulling its financial weight. “Governments must give a reasonable fraction of the $1.4 billion still needed if the humanitarian disaster in the Horn of Africa is to be stopped, they declared.

Tens of thousands of Somalis have died in the current famine and more than 12 million people are in desperate need of food aid.

The United States has been the biggest international donor to date, with about $580 million in aid this year. Britain is the second-biggest donor at $205 million, followed by Japan and Australia. Saudi Arabia, the biggest donor from the Muslim world, is next at $60 million.

Black Buying Power: Watch Where You Spend Your Money

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Most big advertisers don’t respect the African American consumer

By David Alexander, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

How much do most big corporate advertisers respect the African American consumer—25 percent, 15 percent, 5 percent, or one percent?

If you guessed one percent you were wrong. It’s less than that—.68 percent, to be exact.

Of the $263.7 billion spent annually on advertising within the nation, less that one percent is used to target African American consumers, despite the fact that Black buying power is estimated at around $857 billion, according to the 2010 census.

Ken Smikle of Target Market News notes that “the largest single investment corporate America makes is advertising,” but only a trickle is spent targeting African American consumers, a group that has been and continues to be underestimated, underserved, disrespected and misunderstood.

Pepper Miller, co-founder of the Hunter-Miller Group, a multicultural marketing firm, and co-author of the book “What’s Black About It?” explains that one of the most common misperceptions advertisers have is that mainstream publications will reach all possible consumers. Since most African Americans speak English, they generalize, there is no need to market outside of the mainstream publications.

“Marketing is about segmentation, diversity and understanding who your customers are,” counters Miller, who has devoted many years to the field of diverse marketing. But why do advertisers feel that way when these facts are taught in most marketing classes, and when it is known that most African Americans generally distrust the mainstream media?

A 2008 study by Radio One entitled “Understanding Black America” revealed that only 13 percent of African Americans trust the mainstream media, and out of 29 million Blacks, only 2 million can be reached through mainstream publications.

In fact, there is a long history of corporations and organizations using Black newspapers for free press exposure while committing only a paltry amount of their vast advertising budgets to support the same papers that have opened up valuable editorial space to them.

A similar type criticism was lodged against Toyota by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) earlier this year. The NNPA alleged that when Toyota’s image was hurt by devastating recalls a couple of years earlier, the Japanese car maker sought help from the Black press to restore the brand’s image and to encourage African American loyalty. The NNPA charged that Blacks stood by Toyota to the tune of $2.2 billion. However, in its $1.6 billion 2011 advertising budget, Toyota allocated only $20 million to be shared by all African American media, including newspapers, radio and television. And when Toyota ran ads thanking American consumers for remaining loyal, none of the thank-you ads ran in the African American press.

R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive marketing research firm, says African American consumers represent almost 10 percent of Toyota’s U.S. market share, with 15 out of every 100 automobile purchases by African Americans being a Toyota-made automobile.

Unfortunately, the slighting of African American media is a problem even among Black advertisers. The NAACP, the oldest and largest of civil rights organizations, ignored Black publications in advertising its annual Image Awards extravaganza. When doling out its advertising dollars for the event, the organization chose to utilize only mainstream publications. As a result, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous was the target of much criticism from the Black press. Jealous claimed it was a “grave” oversight. “I am very sensitive to the need to support Black community newspapers. They are the only way to assure Black readers in a given community that you actually want your ads to reach them directly,” he said in response to the criticism.

This questionable marketing practice is also occurring in the music industry, where there are multitudes of African American performers. Despite this fact, the industry has invested few ad dollars targeting African American consumers.

This is occurring at a time when African American businesses and workers are hardest hit by unemployment and the ever-tightening economy.

Many executives in the movie industry are guilty of a similar myopia. They have operated on the assumption that African Americans will not attend a movie that does not have an African American lead and/or cast. However, a study conducted by BET this year revealed that 81 percent of movies seen by African Americans did not include an African American cast, lead actor or storyline. This same study also showed that the average African American goes to the movies 13.4 times a year in comparison to the general moviegoer who goes 11 times a year.

So the question becomes: why are these advertisers slighting their most reliable consumer?

According to a 2008 report from Packaged Facts, which publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer industries, Black buying power is projected to rise to about $1.1 trillion by 2012. There are currently 343,300 African American households within the United States earning $150,000 or more, as well as “819,700 individuals who earn a minimum of $75,000 per year.”

Although a number of companies have profited by marketing directly to the African American consumer, such as McDonalds, Gucci, Lexus, Lincoln, Procter & Gamble, State Farm, Infiniti, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, overall most corporations and organizations have left the African American consumer out when it comes to their ad dollars.

In “Black Is the New Green,” authors Leonard Burnett Jr. and Andrea Hoffman write: “It would be foolish in the extreme not to tap into this rich buying segment, yet this is exactly what the marketing firms of companies (fail to) do all too frequently.”

While African American consumers are over-indexing (spending more dollars in certain consumer goods categories) in areas such as electronics, cell phones and the latest technology, those same corporations often do little to market directly to the African American consumer.

Marketers have a tendency to lump people into simple groups without considering their diversity within a category. The best example of this happens during February (Black History month) when marketers, if they advertise in Black publications at all, put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, by only advertising in the month of February.

Although recognition of Black history is considered important, studies show that companies will fare better in the African American consumer market, if they appeal to the consumer throughout the year.

The term “urban” has been used to describe all African Americans for some marketers, despite the reality that the word really focuses more on African American youth, particularly fans of Hip Hop. This categorization leaves out many different segments within the African American population.

In “Black Is the New Green,” authors Burnett and Hoffman identify three key segments:

• Urban/Hip Hop/youth (18-34)
• African Americans (25-54)
• Affluent African Americans (25-44)

Although these findings provide some insight into the African American market, it does not take into account Black teens, African American women, or the Black Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Transgender community, which are all demographic areas that have increased their buying power and play a key role in influencing purchasing decisions of the household.

BET’s “African Americans Revealed” study, released last year, provides a much more detailed look at key segments within the African American consumer market:

• Strivers: Mostly in their late 20s to early 40s. Are adventurous, fashionable, social mavens who have their eyes on climbing the executive ladder • Conscious Sisters: Selfless women who are spiritually connected and highly conscious of their culture. • Tech Fluentials: Digitally savvy and travel in globally conscious circles • Bright Horizons: Young adults in high school and college who are aware of all available technology and electronic gadgets • Inner Circle Elites: Working women who are rich in cultural, ancestral and spiritual roots • Urban Dreamers: Young, urban adults who are social magnets and trendsetters intent on living life to the fullest • Survivors: Risk-taking teen and young adult males who are hustling to keep their existence in check

With these more detailed insights into the market, advertisers are able to have more information to carefully craft a message and to use Black publications more effectively.

In “What’s Black About It?” Herb Kemp and Pepper Miller explain that many years of neglect have caused what Na’im Akbar, Ph.D., considered one of the world’s preeminent African American psychologists, calls “The Filter,” which he describes as the nucleus of Black experience and culture.

“The filter has predisposed many African Americans to become overly sensitive about feeling stereotyped, and not feeling valued, respected, included and welcomed,” explained Miller and Kemp.

Miller further explains that “the filter” is one of the most “distinguishing characteristics between Blacks and other races.”

“If I were a marketer,” says Miller, “I would want to understand the filter and how we (the businesses and the African American consumer) can connect on a deeper level.”

There is some debate however, as to how prevalent “the filter” is among African American consumers. In “Black Is the New Green,” the authors explain that the African American consumer is mainly looking for “value and responds favorably to exclusive discounts.”

While many corporations and small businesses have good intentions about marketing to the African American consumer, often the results are not successful due to lack of knowledge, not properly tailoring the message, or cultural insensitivity.

“What Whites fail to see is very evident to the Black audience,” explains Robert Pitts, Ph.D., marketing professor at Chicago’s DePaul University. In “What’s Black About It?” he states that “Whites fail to realize certain social, respect and accomplishment values present in some advertising.”

Richard Poston, president of the Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, explains that one of the main misperceptions is that all African Americans “come from the same educational background and income.”

He further notes that African Americans have not been portrayed positively in the media. “When you have (some) newspapers that put images of African Americans getting arrested on the front cover or articles about Section 8 housing with pictures of African Americans, this creates false stereotypes. People get stuck on these stereotypes.”

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., co-founder and managing director of the Urban Issues Forum, a nonprofit organization that holds monthly forums regarding local urban issues, explains that there has been a failure in, “not understanding the reach and base (of the African American consumer market).”

Samad also explains that many “advertisers do not think African Americans are brand loyal” yet he says that he and many other African Americans “continue to purchase a lot of the same brands that our parents did.” Numerous studies have revealed some common mistakes of advertisers who attempt to reach out to the African American consumer: • Use of Ebonics: The use of ebonics has been used in numerous ads in African American newspapers and magazines regardless of the type of reader the publication targets. Not only do many people find this insulting, but its use loses appeal to middle-aged and older consumers.
• Culturally insensitive advertising: Some advertisers have utilized the image of famous Black historical figures during Black History Month to promote products. Other examples include advertising that reinforces stereotypes.
• Not considering the publication: Some advertisers think of the African American consumer as a monolithic group without considering the main readership demographic of a publication. Does the publication appeal more to women, youth, baby boomers, affluent African Americans etc.? The message needs to resonate with the reader.
• Imagery: Many African American consumers have observed a lack of positive images when marketing to the African American community. Most want to see more positive images such as loving families, affluent African Americans, Black love, lifestyle-focused advertising and the beauty of African American women.

The key point to remember here is that African Americans are a diverse group like any other collection of people. Factors such as age, education, geography, interests and hobbies, income, gender, religion and other factors create different marketing segments to consider.

While opinions vary, many multicultural marketing firms such as the Hunter-Miller Group and Diversity Affluence agree that in order for businesses to increase profits by marketing to the African American consumer, there needs to be a level of understanding of different factors. These include: recognizing the strength of the African American consumer market, providing positive imagery and using culturally sensitive marketing.

Samad says, “The Black marketing industry (such as Black-owned advertising firms) needs to come together and develop unity and a consistent message.”

Non-African Americans need to understand that there has been a long history of neglect, disrespect and misperceptions of the African American consumer market. Business owners and executives stand to increase profits significantly, if they take the time to move away from antiquated methods that are not inclusive of an ever-increasing diverse population as well as messages that miss the mark. Also, companies that profit from the African American consumer need to be held accountable, if they are ignoring the patronage of African American consumers. Editorials in the Black press and effective use of social media are just some of the ways that this issue can be brought to light.

“Consumers have economic buying power that needs to be used better in their own self-interest,” says Smikle. “African American consumers should be asking if the brand (or store) they are purchasing from is making a contribution to the Black community or investing in the Black consumer market? How wide is the gap between purchasing (by the African American consumer) and investing into the African American consumer market?

Smikle also explains that social media can play a role in bringing attention to the issue of how corporations profit from the African American consumer, and whether these corporations are acknowledging Black consumer patronage by investing ad dollars in Black-oriented publications and/or the community.

“Someone has to have the guts to speak up in marketing meetings and discuss the competitive advantage of marketing to the Black consumer market … The customer relationship does not end at the cash register,” says Smikle.

Report: More North Carolina Kids Live in Poverty

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By Herbert L. White, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

North Carolina children face more economic insecurity according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Kids Count Data Book found that North Carolina ranks 38th in key indicators of child health and well being in 2011, down a spot from last year. Well-being indicators, which the authors say usually trail economic markers, haven’t captured the recession’s impact and may not for several years.

“While important gains have been made for North Carolina’s children, clear challenges still exist,” said Laila Bell, director of research and data at Action for Children North Carolina, which commissioned Kids Count. “In 2009, half a million children in North Carolina lived in poverty – a particularly sobering statistic since we know that poverty affects children’s academic, health and future labor market outcomes.”

The data reveals a mixed message in North Carolina. The number of kids living in poverty ($22,050 for a family of four in 2009) grew to 504,000 while the teen birth rate declined to 49 births per 1,000 girls in 2008.

On the other hand, school dropout rates continued to improve, with the state ranking 29th in the U.S. at seven percent compared to 16 percent in 2000.

Economic and social gains for children started to slide before the recession, Kids Count data showed. In N.C., 90,000 children, or two percent of the state’s total, were in families that were impacted by home foreclosure. An estimated 253,000, or 12 percent, lived in homes that had at least one parent who was unemployed.

“Foreclosure and parental unemployment threaten the well-being of our children,” Bell said. “Evidence shows that stable, economically secure homes are critical components of child development and are essential to children’s life success.”

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