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Thousands March on Staten Island for Eric Garner

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By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Overwhelmed is a word that was repeatedly uttered by the family members of Eric Garner during the rally on Staten Island on Saturday. “I don’t know what to say,” said Esaw Garner, the widow of the man thousands had marched for, chanting his name and calling for justice. “This is so overwhelming; I don’t know what to say.”

She didn’t have to say anything, the marchers said it all. “I can’t breathe!” echoed from the crowd as it marched from Mt. Sinai Christian Church to Bay Street where the rally was held.

“Hands Up,” a caller screamed. “Don’t shoot!” the audience answered, summoning the recent killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

“If we have to march from Staten Island to Ferguson for justice we will do it,” one speaker told the crowd that stretched more than a quarter of a mile along the waterfront.

“I would say there are about 8,000 out here,” was the estimate from one police officer.

But it wasn’t about the numbers, said Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, one of the chief organizers of the march. “It’s about the struggle for justice,” he said. “We are not having a fit, this is a movement…and we are here marching for the family.”

“This is not about black or white and we are here not against the police, but against wrong,” said Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo who was killed by the police in the Bronx in 1999, all of whom were acquitted. “We want this to stop.”

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said “He was a good son. Never talked back to me and at the moment my heart is so full…I am so overwhelmed.”

Garner, who was affectionately known as the gentle giant, was killed on July 17, when an officer grabbed him from behind in a chokehold, wrestled him to the pavement, while other officers helped him press Garner’s body so hard that he couldn’t breathe. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, who applied the illegal chokehold, was stripped of his badge and gun and assigned to desk duty.

The marchers passed the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, intensifying their demands for justice and the latest news is that a grand jury is in the process of being impaneled but it may take quite a while before they’ve heard all the evidence.

Bishop Victor Brown of Mt. Sinai Church agreed that they were trouble makers and “we will not go away until we have a sweeping reform of the police across the nation.”

Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, activist Lenora Fulani, Rep. Jose Serrano, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, former Governor David Paterson, and George Gresham of 1199SEIU were among the speakers at the peaceful rally.

“We are here by the thousands,” Sharpton declared, “and we are not here to cause violence; because violence has been caused by a chokehold. We are here to help the police get rid of the bad apples so they won’t affect the others.”

It was a very diverse gathering with marchers from all walks of life. Among some of the elected officials and dignitaries making the long trek were Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark Viverito, Jumaane Williams, Elinor Tatum, Cornelius Ricks, Michael Gartner, Fred Monderson, Shirley Smith, Michael Mulgrew, Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, and countless others.

Protests Continue in Support of Nigerian Girls

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By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Little girls should have the chance to get a quality education, frolic with friends and dream about becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers or engineers.

But in places of civil unrest, young women face more life-threatening obstacles – holding on to their innocence and not being exploited because of the whims of men.

While leaders from the Motherland painted the town during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in the District a few weeks ago, a group of protesters gathered outside of the Grand Hyatt Washington in Northwest in support of several hundred schoolgirls kidnapped in early April by a terrorist organization in their homeland of Nigeria.

“I asked Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan what he was doing to find the girls and he told me that while he was doing all he could that he didn’t want to rush in because he thought their captors might kill them,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Miami and other parts of South Florida. “More troubling is the fact that he waited over three months before meeting with the parents of the abducted girls and still has not visited their school [Government Second School in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria] to express his solidarity or to share his action plan in securing the safe return of the young girls.”

Wilson, who has traveled to Nigeria and met with some of the girls who managed to escape, marched with close to 60 other protesters on Wednesday, August 6 to express both outrage and disappointment that more than 200 girls remain missing and presumed forced into marriages by members of Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and terrorist group based in Northeast Nigeria.

Since 2010, Boko Haram has targeted schools, killing hundreds of children under the pretense that they object to education that isn’t Islamic based. On the night of April 14 and 15, the militants broke into the school and kidnapped approximately 276 girls, 53 of whom have since escaped.

One member of a grassroots organization comprised of citizens from the African diaspora said pressure and protests should continue against Nigeria’s leaders until the girls are returned home.

“The Nigerian government claims that they know where the girls are being held which begs the question what are they doing to retrieve them,” said Omolola Adele-Oso, founding member and leader of Act4Accountability, who lives in Bowie, Maryland and partners with groups along the Eastern Seaboard on issues of social justice. “Girls all over the world are undervalued and are most affected by policies impacting access to quality education, reproductive health and the allocation of adequate resources,” said Adelo-Oso, 35.

One supporter from Olney, Maryland said he fears that the girls will eventually be forgotten.

“This incident is not a flashpoint as the abduction and violation of the security of adolescent girls and women in Africa is a long-standing tradition,” said Adom M. Cooper. “Jonathan’s decision not to negotiate has more to do with his desire not to lose his current position of power in Nigeria than it does with 276 innocent girls in danger. I think it’s cowardice on his part. Tragically, the world does not value the lives of those with dark skin,” said Cooper, 27.

An educator from Brooklyn College, CUNY, said she hopes that nations with clout will force Nigeria’s leaders to act.

“The U.S., Israel and other more powerful states than Nigeria routinely negotiate with those who abduct their citizens,” said Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, a resident of Brooklyn, New York and a professor of political science, African and women’s studies. “The U.S. promised to help locate the girls and recover them – it should live up to its promise.”

Since the kidnapping, people from across the globe, including first lady Michelle Obama, have given their support via social media hoping to influence the Nigerian government to free the girls, curb further abductions and protect other schoolchildren.

One member of the American Federation of Teachers said she participated in the protest because of her commitment to social justice.

“I understand [Jonathan’s] reluctance to negotiate with terrorists – it sets a bad precedent,” said Marjorie Brown, who lives in Falls Church, Virginia. “On the other hand this abduction was so outrageous and perpetrated on truly helpless victims and by not negotiating, as far as we know, he seems somewhat complicit in the act,” said Brown, 55.

Ferguson Protesters Victimized by Heavy-Handed Tactics That Protect and Serve Police

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By Ishmael Sistrunk
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

In the world of sports, big, strong black Americans are cheered, celebrated and worshipped. GMs, scouts and fans fawn over an athlete’s height, weight, reach, speed, strength and agility. On the streets of Ferguson, the St. Louis metro area and all across America, those same attributes can be a death sentence.

When Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson decided to end the life of Michael Brown Jr., he did so with an excessive amount of force. No, the full details of what happened of what happened that fateful Saturday afternoon haven’t emerged, thanks to a County investigation shrouded in secrecy. The fact remains, however, that Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. He didn’t have a gun, a knife or any other weapon but was slain in the middle of the street, in broad daylight. To some, the 6-foot-4, 292 pound teenager’s size and skin color offer enough of an excuse to give the officer the benefit of the doubt.

The irony in this case, which has garnered global attention, has been the police response to protesters. The community is outraged by the killing of another young black man due to extremely excessive force by police officers. Somehow, the law enforcement officials charged with maintaining public safety in Ferguson still find it appropriate to demonstrate excessive force on a nightly basis.

West Florissant Ave. has become a war zone. Mine-resistant armored vehicles roam the streets. Police officers decked out in camouflage and riot gear aim automatic rifles at peaceful protesters. Sound cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets are fired into massive crowds, all in the name of public safety despite the fact that it’s the public on the receiving end of these weapons of war. How can police officers expect to maintain peace by making residents stare into the barrels of high-powered weapons all day and night? A level of resentment already existed against law enforcement. The flexing of power certainly doesn’t help.

To be fair to the officers, there is certainly an element of danger lurking behind the peaceful protesters. Outside agitators have been present on the ground in Ferguson everyday, intent to causing conflict. They are a miniscule minority but one that poses concern for officer safety and public. That is understood. Still, it’s hard to believe that in 2014, with all the technological resources at hand, the law enforcement officials cannot identify and apprehend rogue agents without attacking thousands of innocent people.

Each time I’ve visited Ferguson in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing looting, people have pointed out outside agitators to me, faces to be wary of. Police officers walk amongst the crowds during daylight hours. They have open dialogue with the brave peacekeepers who also risk their lives to protect the people and keep unrest at a minimum. Why are citizens and peacekeepers able to identify these individuals but the police cannot? It’s hard to believe that there’s no way to find and apprehend those behaving badly, but instead treat everyone as criminals.

In hostage situations, police officers are trained to protect innocent lives at all costs. In Ferguson, their tactics are akin to gunning down hostages in order to kill the kidnappers. It doesn’t make sense. Now the National Guard has been called onto the scene. Their job? Protect the police. Yes, the group with helicopters, high powered rifles, armored vehicles and a full militaristic arsenal gets military protection while the community is left to fend for itself.

Several of the nights tear gas was deployed, the instigating factor was reported to be plastic and/or glass bottles tossed at law enforcement. Should protesters be throwing those items? Absolutely not? But do we as a society really believe the proper response by trained police personnel is to fire weapons at everyone? Man, woman, young, old, black, white, peaceful, militant are all grouped into one and the mindset of law enforcement is ‘us against them.’

That’s the mindset that got us into this situation in the first place. There’s a strange and dire disconnect between police and the people they are sworn to protect. Monday afternoon another young, black male was shot and killed by police, this time in the City of St. Louis. Police and witnesses reported the man was approaching officers with a knife drawn. There is not the same outrage as in the case of

Brown because to their credit, St. Louis Metropolitan police were transparent and timely in their reports. In a legal sense, the shooting appears to have been justified. Still, one has to wonder why a taser wasn’t used instead of lethal force. Different killing, same narrative.

Force is all these officers seem to understand. Mike Brown already paid the ultimate price of this policing strategy. How many more lives must be lost before we find a better way to protect and serve.

Christensen Set to be U.S. First Black Female Governor

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Afro-American Newspaper

The United States has never had a Black female as the governor of a state-level jurisdiction but that could change in the November general election. U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Donna Christensen (D) is well on her way to becoming the governor of her territory. She and Basil Ottley Jr. won the crowded Aug. 2 Democratic Party primary for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, and because of the strength of the party, will face minor opposition from the island’s other political parties in the Nov. 4 general election.

Christensen was delighted to win her latest political battle. “I am pleased to have the nomination of the Democratic Party and I invite all of my fellow Democrats to work together with me to ensure victory in November,” Christensen, 68, said. “We have a lot of work to do; our people expect that we will have a common vision and a plan to move our territory forward.”

Christensen has been the delegate from the Virgin Islands since 1997. Before her election to Congress, she practiced family medicine for 21 years and held other political offices in the territory.

The delegate earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. in 1966 and her medical degree from the George Washington University in the District in 1970. She did her residency at Howard University Medical Center from 1973-74.

While African-American females have served as lieutenant governors of such states as Ohio and Florida, no Black female has mounted a serious bid to lead a state.

The Virgin Islands has a population of 106,405 and is 76 percent Black. The residents are United States citizens but cannot vote in presidential elections even though they can participate in the Democratic and Republican party activities.

As a delegate like the District’s representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Christensen cannot vote on the floor of the House but is allowed to fully participate in committee activities, party caucuses and to gain seniority based on years of service. Christensen, who is serving her ninth term, is the first female physician to serve in the U.S. Congress, the first woman delegate from the Virgin Islands and the first woman to represent an offshore territory.

In the House Democratic Caucus, she served as an assistant minority whip. As an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Christensen chairs the Health Braintrust which is the focal point of the organization’s stands on health issues affecting the country’s Black citizens.

In her quest to lead the Virgin Islands, Christensen received support from key women’s political groups. The Women’s Campaign Fund, which helps female candidates for office raise money, has listed Christensen as a “game changer.”

“Christensen has been a strong supporter of the Virgin Islands’ Women’s Coalition and other organizations that advocate for women, especially against [domestic] abuse,” the organization’s website said. “She has always participated in programs on the [Capitol] Hill and elsewhere that addressed women’s issues and is actively involved in the Virgin Islands Commission on Women’s Issues and the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues.

Christensen has also gotten the support of EMILY’s List, the powerful political organization which trains and funds female candidates for political office. “Donna Christensen has an outstanding record of service to the women and families of the Virgin Islands,” Stephanie Schriock, president of the organization, said. “The EMILY’s List community of over three million members is thrilled that Donna is one step closer to becoming the first woman governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

If elected governor, Christensen will be the first Black woman to become a member of the National Governors Association, the trade association for the leaders of the states and territories. Michael Fauntroy, a political scientist who teaches at Howard University, said that is an important perk for Christensen. “The National Governors Association will give her a chance to participate with her fellow governors in dealing with national issues and give her a national profile,” he said.

Fauntroy said that while Christensen’s election will be a boon for Black women it does have its limits. “While her election will be noteworthy and represents another step for African-American women in politics, running the Virgin Islands is somewhat off the national radar,” he said. “It isn’t like she would be the governor of New York or Maryland, but it still is important.”

Jamaica: Help for Schools in Drought Stricken Areas

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has instructed that action be taken to help schools cope as the dry spell continues to affect the country.

With the countdown now on to the start of the new academic year, a meeting will held with several Government Ministries, and a plan of action will be outlined early next week.

Water Minister, Robert Pickersgill, says schools in parishes experiencing severe drought could be could be impacted and as a result the ministry will also focus on hospitals and infirmaries in areas adversely

affected by the reduction in rainfall.

The National Water Commission (NWC) in collaboration with the Local Government Ministry will be supplying water to schools in affected areas.

The NWC has already assisted some schools in the Corporate Area, that are experiencing challenges with their supply, by providing water tanks.

PIckersgill has urged school administrators to place importance on establishing catchment and storage facilities.

“I am encouraging all schools to establish additional facilities for storage, so that in the absence of regular supplies, water may be supplied to them and stored. After all, we are all aware that ‘water is life’,” he said.

Although the island has been experiencing some rainfall in recent days corporate communications manager for the NWC, Charles Buchanan, says there has not been much improvement in the country’s water supply.

“It is still severe, and, in some places, worsening ,” he said.

Buchanan said both rural and Corporate Area water systems were under pressure and this was likely to increase for the reopening of schools.

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BVN National News Wire