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Racial Slurs Become Part of St. Bernard Parish Housing Fight

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By Zoe Sullivan, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

There has been clear opposition for years to the presence of African Americans in St. Bernard Parish, based on the litigation history of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), James Perry, executive director of that organization, told The Louisiana Weekly.

“We get really nasty phone calls and e-mails pretty frequently about St. Bernard Parish, and they oftentimes have a lot of racial innuendo, but occasionally they have really direct racial statements and racial epithets,” Perry told The Louisiana Weekly.

Recently, his organization used two examples of this in litigation against St. Bernard Parish around a multi-family housing project being developed there by Provident Realty Advisors, Inc.

Provident is building four mixed-income apartment complexes, which would be within walking distance of a planned hospital. According to GNOFHAC, each complex would contain 72 units for a total of 288. Perry says the State of Louisiana is supporting the development with $30 million in tax credits, which are only awarded following stringent investigations by the State. Provident initially asked GNOFHAC for assistance in 2008.

Recently, Judge Ginger Berrigan, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, denied a request by the Parish for a cease and desist order against Provident Realty.

The ruling stated: “While Defendants have raised concerns about the work Provident has performed without inspections, none of these concerns justify a complete shutdown of the projects. From the testimony presented in court, Provident appears willing and able to address all of Defendants’ concerns.”

The concerns ranged from drain lines from the development buildings to existing storm drains, the height of proposed driveways, and the use of third party inspectors.

The court ruling also noted that: “…the Court finds that there is no legal support for President Taffaro’s position that Provident must tear down all of its buildings before the Parish would issue any permits.”

“It’s always been clear that racial animus is key to the resistance to this housing development. There’s no mistake,” Perry told The Louisiana Weekly.

“We have been and continue to be offended by the incident that is in question,” St. Bernard Parish President Craig P. Taffaro, Jr. said to The Louisiana Weekly’s inquiry about the racially tinged graffiti and voicemail presented in court.

“We find it equally troublesome that the Provident officials sought no legal intervention. No police report was filed by Provident. We are really proud that our post-Katrina population statistics continue to show that St. Bernard is more diverse than ever before in our history, and we continue to promote a unified community in our recovery.”

The Insistent Question: Where Are The Jobs?

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By Lee A. Daniels, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

The gloomy federal jobs report for May has brought to the forefront again all the questions – and fears – about the economy and the jobs crisis that six months ago were pushed into the deep background by the compromise on unemployment benefits between President Obama and the Republicans in Congress.

The legislation ensured that for all of this year all jobless workers who reach the normal six-month cutoff point for unemployment benefits – estimated at about four million – would automatically have their payments renewed. The measure also included another two million whose benefits were lapsing during last December as well.

In exchange, the President agreed to extend for another two years the Bush-era provisions governing estate taxes and tax cuts for the highest-income earners.

The administration was clearly hoping that during this year, the economic recovery would have gathered enough steam to forge the kind of job growth that would jump-start a sustained paring of the jobless rolls.

That hasn’t happened. Instead, the slowing of the momentum of economic recovery has produced a keenly-felt disconnect between the fact that the Great Recession officially ended nearly two years ago and the fact of the hardship many Americans are still enduring.

The official unemployment rate for May inched up to 9.1 percent and a just-barely-positive 54,000 new jobs were tallied. That underscored the fact that the labor market still has seven million fewer jobs than at the start of the crisis in December 2007—and that some 14 million Americans remain out of work. Which, in turn, raised the point that many labor-market analysts expect it will take years of sustained significant job growth to push the unemployment rate down to its pre-recession level between five and six percent.

The recovery’s tepid pace has also emphasized the many worrisome questions about the recession’s long-term effects. Millions of younger workers among the jobless face a future in which their lifetime earnings are likely to be permanently diminished by this period of sustained joblessness. And, many jobless workers who are 55 and older are likely – if they can find work again – to never again approach the status or wages of their previous jobs. In addition, the number of long-term unemployed workers – those jobless for six months or more – after declining somewhat late last year is on the rise again. The 6.2 million workers in this category now comprise 45.1 percent of the total jobless, from 43.4 percent in April.

Numerous analysts have expressed concern that many of the long-term unemployed will never again find consistent employment.

If not mitigated, these possibilities will in the years ahead diminish the amount of payments into the funds for Social Security and Medicare, just as the largest waves of Baby Boomers are likely to be drawing heavily on those two federal programs.

Further, the May jobs report, in which Black unemployment ticked upward from April’s 16.1 to 16.2 percent, again underlined the intensifying racially-skewed dynamic within the broader economic crisis.

This month’s report on Black employment and unemployment from the Center for Labor Research and Education of the University of California at Berkeley (PDF) noted that the Black unemployment figures stand in stark contrast to those of Whites, which plateaued at 8.0 percent for both months. Furthermore, the composite figures for Blacks mask the separately alarming predicaments of Black male and female workers. Unemployment for the former climbed from 18.1 to 18.6 percent, while that of Black females stood in May at 14,1 percent, down slightly from April’s 14.4 percent (compared to 7.5 and 7.6 percent, respectively, for white females workers).

That was just one of numerous statistics – including homeownership rates, the incidence of foreclosures, funds saved for retirement , household income, access to health care, and poverty rates — that show, amid the difficult present and worrisome prospects for several segments of American workers in general, Black Americans’ predicament continues to be the worst of all.

But, of all of this data, the Black unemployment rate, seeming now to be slowly spiraling upward on a curve of its own, presents the greatest danger. The reason is simple: If fewer and fewer Blacks have jobs, all of the other indices of their economic status will get worse.

Lee A. Daniels is Director of Communications for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. and Editor-in-Chief of TheDefendersOnline.

Brutal Racial Attacks Haven't Stopped in 'Post-Racial' America

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

(FinalCall.com) - As candidates from both parties line up to run and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012, some in the Black community are being forced to face the reality that race relations in America have not improved. Others were never under that illusion.

“I truly thought things might evolve racially with Obama in office. But I've watched even more racism spew from White folks, the Tea Party, and Republicans. I've watched them attack Michelle Obama and even read about all of the assassination attempts against her husband. It's sad,” Deborah Rogers, 60, told The Final Call.

Rogers says she stood in line for hours in Houston to vote for President Obama over two years ago in hopes that a change was on the horizon. “I feel like we're going backwards. A ‘post-racial America' was only a mirage,” she said.

“Black people got mesmerized by the Obama phenomenon. However, when it comes to the continuous heinous crimes done to Blacks and Hispanics in this country, the scales of justice remain unbalanced,” Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front, told The Final Call.

Reflecting on the 13th anniversary of the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., Taharka says “much hasn't really changed since in terms of the treatment of Black people. But no matter who is in office we can't stop addressing the issues.”

On May 31, a Texas district judge ordered a Sept. 21 execution date for Lawrence Brewer, one of three White men convicted for the murder of Mr. Byrd in Jasper, Texas. John William King is expected to be executed as well and Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence for involvement in the crime.

“I'm against the death penalty and I would rather see them locked up for life and rot inside the prison to think about what they did,” said filmmaker Eligah Jason of Beaumont, Texas.

Jason directed an award-winning documentary on the life and tragic death of Byrd. “We wanted to let people know about who he was as a family man and not let this story die,” he said.

The 49-year-old Byrd was chained by his ankles to the rear of a truck and dragged along a rural road on June 7, 1998. Mr. Byrd's head and right arm were severed while his torso was dumped near a cemetery in Jasper County.

“Just because Texas has set an execution date for Lawrence Brewer, people should not think that this state all of a sudden cares about ending racism and addressing hate crimes,” said Gloria Rubac, of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

“Racism is one of the weapons used by capitalists. This execution will not improve race relations when the system is making ugly attacks on the poor in education and immigration. We need a top down shift,” said Rubac.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law in October 2009 by President Obama.

The act authorizes the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The bill also gives the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate or when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves.

Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz only sees it as a piece of paper that does not serve justice for the poor.

“The use and application of this act has been slow and disappointing. The local and state authorities have done a horrible job in bringing these hate crime laws into prosecution. Since President Obama has been elected there has been a noted increase in hate crimes and racist acts toward Blacks and Hispanics,” said Shabazz, who heads the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

The U.S. Justice Department announced that Frankie Maybee, 20, of Green Forest, Arkansas, was convicted on May 19 by a federal jury of five counts of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime. Co-defendant Sean Popejoy pleaded guilty to one count of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime.

This is the first conviction at trial for a violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“The defendants targeted five men because they were Hispanic, and today's verdict shows that the Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting individuals who perform acts of hate because of someone's race or national origin,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

According to the Justice Department, on June 20, 2010, Maybee and Popejoy threatened and injured five Hispanic men who pulled into a gas station parking lot. The co-conspirators taunted the victims causing them to run off the road, and crash into a tree. The victims survived but suffered injuries.

“We will continue to use the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and every other tool in our law enforcement arsenal, to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever they occur,” said Perez.

Blacks, Hispanics still victimized more

A November 2010 report by the FBI showed there were 8,336 victims of hate crimes the previous year. Over 4,000 of those crimes were race related and Blacks represented nearly 72 percent of the victims. Hispanics accounted for 62 percent of those victimized due to ethnicity or national origin.

Of the 6,225 known offenders, 62.4 percent were White, 18.5 percent were Black, and 7.3 percent were groups of individuals of various races, the report said.

Shabazz is quick to remind people about the case of Anthony Hill, who was shot in the head, tied up and dragged several miles by White male Gregory Collins early last June, according to South Carolina authorities in Newberry County.

“No hate crime charge was made. Gregory Collins took a plea deal and was sentenced to eight years in prison,” said Shabazz.

Also in June of last year, the Orange County sheriff's office in Beaumont, Texas reported that 35-year-old White male William Baker Bibb confessed to killing 26-year-old Theresa Ardoin, who was Black. Bibb allegedly dragged her body a quarter of a mile behind his pickup truck. Authorities said the two were in a relationship and there was no evidence the incident was a hate crime.

In September 2008, Brandon McClelland was dragged nearly 70 feet up and down a county road in Paris, Texas. Two White males, one of whom was allegedly a close friend, were accused of the crime. All of the charges against Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley were dropped.

A lot of questions are still lingering in Mississippi over how 26-year-old Frederick Jermaine Carter lost his life. The body of Carter was found Dec. 3, 2010 hanging from an oak tree in the predominately White North Greenwood area of Leflore County.

Despite local authorities ruling it a suicide based on a preliminary autopsy report from the Leflore County coroner's office, the victim's family, Black politicians, residents, and community activists haven't accept that declaration as the truth. No suspects have been charged.

Student Minister Robert Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, was in attendance at the emotional funeral of Byrd over a decade ago. “We have to revitalize and reenergize our grassroots movement for justice regardless of who is running or who is elected in 2012,” he said.

Black GOP Candidate Herman Cain Resists Being Labeled 'African American'

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

One presidential candidate’s perspective on race has ignited commentary and discussion about racial identity and its importance in the 2012 race.

When Bloomberg News interviewed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, the conservative said he did not like to be labeled as “African-American”—instead, he said he preferred “American.”

“I don’t like people trying to label me. African-American is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people,” Cain said in the interview.

Gerren Gaynor, a journalist with NewsOne.com, agreed with Cain and said most African Americans had no close ties with their African lineage, and are “unidentifiable” to their “mother country.”

“African-Americans/Blacks/Negroes have no true sense of identity,” Gaynor wrote. “If you’re African-American, you’re more than likely far removed from the African continent and culture.”

Gaynor said that terms such as “African-American” are attempts to find an identity for a culture that has been “misplaced.”

“Cain couldn’t be more right. Identity is quite arbitrary, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with omitting “African” from our nationality,” Gaynor stated.

BET commentator Cord Jefferson refuted Cain’s statement, calling it “one of the stupidest sentences uttered in the African-American community.”

“Believing that it is somehow inaccurate or unpatriotic for a person to call himself an ‘African-American’ rather than just an ‘American’ is absurd, and this is a question that needs to be put to rest,” Jefferson wrote.

Jefferson said anyone who identifies themselves as “African American” does not automatically reject their American identity.

“We use the term ‘African’ not because of an allegiance to the continent of Africa, but because many of us—thanks to slavery—can’t trace our origins back to any specific nation,” he stated.

Cain is a radio talk show host and long-shot candidate as a favorite of the Tea Party movement. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Purdue University and worked his way up the corporate ladder before becoming president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.

Minority Mentoring: The True Value of a Hand Up

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By Tarice L.S. Gray, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

Long before terms like workplace diversity, affirmative action, and inclusion became American standards, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson conspired to change their game of baseball.

Rickey, then the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, wanted two things for his team: a World Series Championship, and a racially-integrated ball club. In Jackie Robinson, Rickey found a man who was not only receptive to both ideas and also prepared to deal with those who didn’t want him in the game.

By the 1940s, no Black player had crossed Major League Baseball’s color line for nearly half a century – until Rickey, who embraced the philosophy of tough love, told Robinson he thought he was the man to do it. Rickey understood that on the diamond and in the public eye, Robinson would face extraordinary pressure; he would succeed or fail on the strength of his own ability. But Rickey was also determined to help him as much as possible — to prepare him to succeed by becoming his baseball mentor.

Like so many things about America’s mythic past time, the relationship of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson dramatically illustrated in the broadest possible terms the impact a mentor can have on an individual and the larger society. That remains especially true for people of color in all fields of endeavor today.

Appropriately, one of the organizations which has used the techniques of mentoring to great effect is the Jackie Robinson Foundation, founded by Robinson’s widow, Rachel, a year after his death in 1972. Since then it has extended the ladder of upward mobility to thousands of the best and brightest young people in minority communities by awarding them generous four-year scholarships to college. But there’s a catch: JRF requires all their students to participate in their mentoring program.

As Della Britton Baeza, president and chief executive of the foundation, puts it. “They can’t just take our money.”

What JRF scholars receive in addition to college financing is a cultural tutorial – a how-to guide, on not just surviving but thriving in the world of big business. The JRF staff calls the tutorial “life skills,” and it includes teaching the students such things as how to manage personal finances and how to eat at a four star restaurant. JRF even foots the bill for an evening at the opera.

It can all be considered carry over from Robinson’s historic moment of inclusion, Baeza said. Although it’s more common these days to see successful minorities in corporate America, those that continue to follow in already formed footsteps have to be prepared. “It’s a bigger challenge for [people of color] to be successful,” she remarked, “because, let’s be honest, we are not post- racial and [they] are facing a real hostile culture in some situations. So mentoring is absolutely vital.”

Despite their value, finding mentors still proves elusive to many who need them. A recent Harvard Business Review exploration of diversity in corporate America found that although big-business companies professed their commitment to seeking out and promoting top minority talent, many of those smart and capable employees of color often left their respective companies “frustrated.” Minority men and women who did excel had a “strong network” of mentors and sponsors that offered more than just instruction, they nurtured their careers. Their business journey was made successful by someone else lighting the way.

Karen Thompson understands the consequences of trying to get ahead without a mentor. Before joining NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund (LDF) as director of its, scholarship program, she was an associate at a respected law firm. Although she found success as an attorney, her road was tougher, she believes, because she did not have a mentor.

“It felt very lonely to me,” she said, “and I really felt like I taught myself how to be a good lawyer.” As she rose higher in the ranks, she saw less people like herself in the offices. Last year, Thompson moved to LDF as Director of its scholarship program and has made building the program’s mentoring component a major goal. Part of that effort involves the creation of something called an “ol’ boy, ol’ girl network” among the program’s alumni in order to ensure that they don’t have to navigate corporate waters alone. She said that commitment to mentoring needs to be ongoing, beyond undergraduate and graduate school into the workplace. The minority corporate veterans need continual guidance and feedback to help them reach their full potential.

Management Leadership for Tomorrow works to that end at the very top of the corporate structure. The mentoring-based organization, founded nearly a decade ago by John Rice, brother of Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, helps veteran workers reach the Corporate Suite, home of the top positions of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and the like.

According to MLT, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans collectively comprise roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population. But, they make up only three percent of senior leaders in corporations, non-profits and entrepreneurial ventures. Patricia Price, Managing Director for Executive Programs for MLT, said that their initiatives are designed to halt the revolving-door dynamic that drains companies of Black, Latino and Native American talent because these mid-level career workers feel their careers have hit a plateau. They believe the mentoring programs, often thought necessary only for adolescents and undergraduate and graduate students, need to be re-fashioned for people trying to climb the corporate ladder. Price said MLT wants to make sure when they get to a place where they are “comfortable” they keep going. “Ultimately, we’re trying to raise the number of leaders, in the country.”

One of the mentoring tools Price said minorities need to have in the corporate world harkens back to Robinson-Rickey relationship: the ability to smoothly respond to your critics. Price said, “being able to listen actively and respond reflectively instead of reactively to negative feedback [is one of the things] that’s very important to leaders.” She added that minorities tend to struggle with that kind of criticism because many feel singled-out and alone. Price also said too many African Americans become “shy” when it comes to hiring African American staff when they’re promoted to head company units or divisions. MLT urges them to embrace “similarity bias” – the practice of hiring people from similar backgrounds, including similar racial backgrounds, because that, too, is part of the mentoring dynamic. That philosophy also drives up the value of a committed minority mentor, or someone who gets it.

As Della Britton Baeza, of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, said “it’s all about somebody taking you under their wing, pulling you by your coat tail, and tough love.”

Tarice L.S. Gray is a freelance writer and blogger with GrayCurrent.com.

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